Monday, September 03, 2012

In whale news - a little GOOD news

Whales are among my favorite creatures.  They were, perhaps, the first truly intelligent mammals to emerge on this planet - we primates took far longer to come up with big brains. The whales inhabit their own kingdom, one humans originally invaded with only malicious intent, but now try to understand.  We drove several of the largest species to near-extinction, and one of the smallest is now extinct (Yangtze River dolphin) and one on the brink (vaquita porpoise.)
So, all good news is welcome.  The mangnificent and unique humpback has several favorite mating grounds, one of them off the coast of Brazil.  In 1996, there were only a thousand of these whales left. In 2002, the Humpback Whaling Institute counted 3,000 in the region. The estimate 10 years later is nearly 10,000.   That doesn't approach the historical numbers of this species in the pre-whaling days, but it's a big nonetheless.  All victories in whale conservation matter, and this is a victory.
Meanwhile, in my old home state of Florida, a lot of effort by experts and volunteers going into rescuing stranded whales. We still don't understand the causes of stranding well, and often the animals can't be refloated: they just beach themselves again. Recently, 22 pilot whales beached themselves. Seventeen could not be saved, but in a small but heartening example of interspecies cooperation, five were brought to Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Institute for rehabilitation. This took the efforts of hundreds of volunteers to get them off the beach, a large staff at the Institute, and veterinary help from Sea World. The wales are doing better, and researchers hope they can be released soon. Bravo, rescuers!

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