A whale’s peculiar behavior towards a snorkeler earlier this week offered protection from a tiger shark that was reportedly swimming nearby.

63-year-old biologist Nan Hauser was observing a pair of humpback whales off the coast of Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands when one of the massive mammals started exhibiting some peculiar behavior.

For ten minutes, the whale kept persistently nudging Hauser along with its nose and attempting to tuck her under its pectoral fins. At one point, the creature even pushed the diver onto its head and out of the water.

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Hauser, who has been studying and swimming with whales for the last 28 years, says that she has never experienced such strange interactions.

The biologist also says that if the whale kept approaching her, she was afraid that its speed and weight would break her bones and rupture her organs. Then, she spotted the 15-foot tiger shark that was swimming nearby.

Though the shark is not shown in Hauser’s video, local fishermen and divers have often seen the same shark swimming in the area. Hauser herself thought that the shark was just another whale until she saw its tale moving from side to side, rather than up and down.

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Hauser says that the encounter could be evidence that whales are altruistic animals that feel compelled to save smaller creatures.

“I wasn’t sure what the whale was up to when he approached me, and it didn’t stop pushing me around for over 10 minutes. It seemed like hours. I was a bit bruised up,” Hauser told the Independent.

“There is a published scientific paper about humpbacks protecting other species of animals, by Robert Pitman. For instance, they hide seals under their pectoral fins to protect them from killer whales. They truly display altruism – sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives,” she says.

(WATCH the video below)

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