Beached Melon-Headed Whales Rescued
More good whale news related to Japan — 22 stranded melon-headed whales were rescued recently. About 200 people including staff from Ibaraki’s Oarai Aquarium helped pour water on the beached whales and move them back out into the ocean. (Many also died however, despite their efforts. Around 50 whales were originally found beached.) The whales beached themselves on Honshu Island, near Ibaraki. Fortunately the conservation status of the species is “Least Concern” so there are enough of them that the losses, though tragic, are not going to cause them to go extinct.
Melon-headed whales often move together in large groups, up to 1,000 (but this large number is rare.) In 2009 about 300 were found in shallow waters, and were guided back to deep water where they need to be in order to find food, by citizens in the Philippines. It was speculated at the time that the whales may have become disoriented due to hearing damage caused by human activity. In 2004 a large group of them moved into shallow water about the same time naval exercises were being conducted fairly close by. It was determined the naval ship sonar may have contributed to their behavior change.
Adults can weigh over 400 pounds and be 10 feet long. They resemble dolphins somewhat in shape and color. Their main food is squid, and due to this preference they are well-equipped for deep dives to find them. The main reason they aren’t seen by humans often is the fact they spend a fair amount of time in deep waters. Females live up to 30 years in the wild, and males a little over 20. Gestation is about 12 months. There are populations in Hawaiian waters, the Phillipines, and the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico, but they can move to any warm tropical waters where they can find squid and fish. Though their numbers are at a sustainable level, they are still a protected species. Luckily for them they tend to stay away from human civilization.