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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

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Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

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Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

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Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

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Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

Little Whales in a Big Ocean

The beginning of the field season is always really exciting, as we see which whales are first to return, which mothers have calves this year, and hope that none of our beloved whales go missing!  We’ve already seen incredible feeding displays and have a growing list of mothers that are returning with their calves to teach them how to feed, socialize, and maneuver through the ocean.  What we didn’t expect to see was evidence that some of these calves have already narrowly escaped death in just their first few months of life. So far, three little ones have unfortunately already been seen with various wounds.

 

Apex’s calf is fairly large considering its age- a sign that Apex is a great mother and the calf is healthy.  However, when looking at its tail stock, there are scars from an entanglement in fishing line. 

 

Fern’s calf is an average size for a calf (this is Fern’s 9th calf) and has been seen on a few occasions with a fresh wound.  While it’s unclear what caused the injury, part of the dorsal fin has been cut open and is still in the process of healing.

 

Buckshot’s calf is luckiest of all to be alive.  This poor calf has a massive injury on the left side of its body, undoubtedly as a result of being struck by a vessel.  A number of concerns arise when a whale has an open wound of that size. First, like humans, whales can die from losing too much blood.  Given the location of the injury, it could have also impacted some of the major organs, causing damage internally.  While the wound is starting to heal, this calf is not out of the woods yet.  Whales have died due to chronic infection as a result of being struck by a ship.  This could take months or even years to eventually take its toll, and therefore have the potential to severely affect the welfare of the individual.

In addition to the pain which these calves have obviously felt, imagine how their mothers must feel.  Whales are sentient beings.  Calves rely on their mothers and stay with them for the first year of life.  The mother is responsible for protecting and preparing her young to survive on their own.  Whales communicate and sense their surroundings.  They frequently travel in pairs or groups and have social structures within their population.  In the cases of Apex, Fern, and Buckshot, each of these mothers were undoubtedly near her calf when it was injured and reacted similarly to the way we as humans would if our child was injured.

Negative human impacts on these populations need to cease so that all whales will stand a chance for survival.  Help us in the fight to protect these sentient beings by supporting our work through a donation, signing our petition to increase and expand protections for whales, and stay up to date on our work.