START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
2,228,935 people care about Environment & Wildlife

Who Will Be Able to Figure Out Why Baby Whales are Dying?

Who Will Be Able to Figure Out Why Baby Whales are Dying?

Do you know whatís killing the southern right whales around Argentina? If you do, please speak up because scientists are perplexed as to why the population is suddenly struggling. Although they are able to offer up a few theories, nothing is concrete at this point, and marine experts will need answers in order to help the whalesí survival,†according to National Geographic.

Between 1971 and 2002, 145 southern right whales died. In the past decade alone, however, 485 such whales have died, amounting to a drastic 70% increase. Even more startling is the fact that 89% of the whales that die are still babies.

Last year was the worst for the southern right whale yet. A full 1/3 of the speciesí babies were found dead. Of the 116 dead whales located, 113 were still calves. Obviously, the southern right whaleís existence is in major jeopardy when the whales have difficulty surviving through infancy.

Here are some of the theories for this crisis that experts are considering:

Disease

When a population dies off in such great numbers, disease is usually a major factor. Though signs of disease have been found in some of the dead calves, it has not occurred at nearly a high enough rate to attribute the whole crisis to this factor.

Birds

Since the 1980s, kelp gulls learned a new way of feeding themselves: eating live whales. Itís gross, but itís true Ė the gulls will peck at the skin of whales and devour it. Once a wound has been created, the birds tend to feast on the same spot, potentially causing major injury.

While adults seem to have learned how to shake the birds from doing much damage while they surface, the youngest whales arenít as savvy about getting the gulls off their backs. Most of the dead calves scientists examine are covered in bird-created lesions, though itís difficult to ascertain whether they contributed to the whalesí deaths.

Toxins

The whalesí food chain may be tainted. Krill eat algae, which is often infected with toxins. While some of the toxins are naturally occurring, some of it is likely due to pollutants and a heavy factory presence on the Argentinian coast.

When the whales, in turn, eat this krill, they are absorbing the toxins that are present in their prey. Though the toxins are probably not enough to kill adult whales, the youngest whales would be more susceptible to the impact and could die from the exposure.

Starvation

On the flip side, it may be a lack of food that is doing the whales the most harm. Scientifically it has been hard for experts to determine whether whales have had access to enough food, but they have tried examining blubber thickness and the baleen (where food enters the mouth and water seeps back out) to monitor the diet. Though more research will need to be conducted, there are early indicators that babies arenít finding enough food to meet their appetites.

Nutrition

In fact, the lack of food might start to be problematic before the calves are even born. Mother whales gorge on krill during their pregnancy since they wonít wind up eating for months after giving birth. If the mothers donít store up enough food in preparation for this event, they are unable to pass along adequate nutrients when breastfeeding their young.

Currently, scientists suspect that a number of these theoretical factors are contributing to the deaths of southern right whales. Unlike the northern right whale, the southern species is not yet considered endangered. Nonetheless, the southern right whale is now at a fraction of the population it once boasted, and if the mortality continues to trend at its current rate, it could join its northern brethren in similar peril. Hopefully, experts will be able to pinpoint the most aggravating causes to help protect these beautiful creatures.

Read more: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

95 comments

+ add your own
11:17AM PST on Dec 12, 2013

Good, if people keep killing all the animals in the world and become extinct, then they all have to be vegetarians, even vegans. Something has to come to an end.

11:08PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

Lisbeth - I couldn't have said it better myself

6:54PM PST on Dec 9, 2013

I get angry every time I see an ad for KRILL oil,for humans!Krill is the only food for the vast majority of whale species!How dare humans deplete this vital food source for their own needs!Also,if the seas around Argentina are so poisoned,has anyone thought about the billions of tons of toxic chemicals which are being dumped on the huge areas of GM crops in this country,and is this rotten stuff,leeching into the oceans??It is a well known fact that the oceans are becoming irreversibly polluted and acidic,and it's no wonder the biggest animals in those oceans are now in dire straits.If the Japanese are still eating whale meat,then I question their credibility,because they are also ingesting a lot of radiation from the Fukushima fallout?!.Humans are a cancer on this finite world!

2:47PM PST on Dec 9, 2013

I believe it is the combination of all this elements. Sadly humans are destroying the planet putting profit before animals and the environment.

7:16AM PST on Dec 9, 2013

Dianne D - I agree with you and I hope you are right. Many scientists believe we are in the "sixth mass extinction" - species are dying off faster now, than any other time in the earth's history since 65 million years ago (when dinosaurs died). Sadly I do believe it is the human who is to blame - we have a complete disregard and disrespect for any other species and for the earth as a whole.

6:59AM PST on Dec 9, 2013

is it because the mama whales are getting killed ? Whaling needs to be stopped.

6:16AM PST on Dec 9, 2013

Simply put---we are to blame. Petition signed.

12:21PM PST on Dec 8, 2013

Signed and shared. I don't suppose the Japanese fleets industrially hovering up krill is leading to starving of the mother whales causing their milk to dry up and thereby starving the calves would it?

Will the Japanese not be satisfied until they have wiped every whale from the face of the earth?

6:59AM PST on Dec 8, 2013

Signed, too .. thanks.

12:22AM PST on Dec 8, 2013

Tragic...Contaminated food supply and less food seem like plausible answers. I wonder where all the krill oil that health food stores are touting comes from??? Could health conscious consumers be ironically killing off whales by consuming their food source?

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

meet our writers

Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!



Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.