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- Abundance, Survival, Recruitment, and Realized Growth Rates of East Australia Humpback Whales
- Calving Rates and Intervals of East Australian Female Humpback Whales
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Inquisitive By Nature
Every so often the world will be exposed to some form of astonishing, inexplicable story of nature at its oddest, a story that boggles the minds of scientists and biologists alike defying all sense of the natural world. Like something out of a children’s book we will on occasion be graced with images of baby piglets suckling from a grown female tiger, of a mouse cuddling up to a house cat, or even of a dog swimming side by side with a wild bottlenose dolphin. Bizarre, but true.
What is it that allows some animals to overcome what is supposed to be a naturally engrained fear, or at the very least a natural apprehension?
Luna the killer whale off Vancouver Island made headlines when she began taking to local fishing boats after being abandoned by her pod at a young age. Old Tom, a killer whale out of Eden, New South Wales, has an entire town built around him for his historical annual assist with local whaling practices back in the mid 1900’s. Dolphins have been documented on numerous occasions protecting humans from potentially fatal shark attacks worldwide. But why, what’s in it for them?
A number of years ago a whalewatch operator out of Hervey Bay would be lucky to get one quality “mugging” per week. Referring to any occasion of which an animal takes an extreme interest into one’s vessel, a “mugging” is an inquisitive behavior of which can last for upwards to several hours. What used to happen weekly is now a daily commodity, and what used to last 15 minutes now averages around an hour.
It was about a week ago that our research team encountered perhaps one of the most exceptionally inquisitive animals known to grace the waters of Hervey Bay. Late in the day and still an hour and a half’s drive from the harbor, we found ourselves “stuck” in position by two inquisitive fully grown Humpback whales. Not completely unaccustomed to close encounters of this kind, yet admittedly a bit unaccustomed to what was yet to come we all readied our cameras for the event.
Although one animal proceeded to be only slightly standoffish, the larger of the two (the female) couldn’t possibly bring herself to separate from the boat. For two solid hours this female was never more than a few feet from the boat. Never tiring of the noise the boat made when blasting bubbles underneath the hull, of the way the hull looked when placing her eye only inches from the side, or of how everything moved when she pushed water towards the stern. This animal was curious, she was inquisitive, she was brilliant.
Over the last week, this animal has had an impact on the hundreds of passengers boarding Hervey Bay whalewatches each day. It would be an understatement to say that she hasn’t had an impact on the research team as well. Her unique behavior and inquisitive nature has allowed for tourists and crew members alike to gain a new perspective, understanding, and respect for a species so commonly misunderstood. However, while her behavior and inquisitive nature are wholeheartedly embraced within the bay, this animal could potentially face fatality upon her departure of Australian waters.
Japanese whaling is still very much a reality and with more and more animals growing more accustomed to commercial and recreational vessel traffic with each generation, the very continuation of whaling procedures can and should be considered detrimental to the humpback population. There is still a fight that needs to be fought, and there are still animals that need or protection. Eco-tourism is a growing industry that allows us to observe while preserving nature at its finest. The continuation of whaling, dolphin slaughter, and shark finning all deplete the chances for future generations of having interactions with wildlife such as this. Visit our website to learn about ways you and yours can “Get Involved” and stay up to date on the whaling crisis through Pacific Whale Foundation’s continuous “Action Alerts.” Get involved, get passionate, lets make a difference.