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Hundreds of whales recorded at South Australia's Head of Bight, including 4 white calves

03/09/2012 14:12:15

One of four white calves seen this season in South Australia. Courtesy of S. Kumar, DEWNR

55 calves including 4 white youngsters
September 2012. More than a hundred southern right whales have been counted at the Head of Bight on South Australia's west coast during an annual monitoring program conducted by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR).

119 Southern right whales, including 55 calves!
DEWNR Great Australian Bight Marine Park (GABMP) manager Saras Kumar said a total of 119 individual southern right whales, including 55 calves, were recorded within the GABMP at the Head of Bight during a two-week monitoring expedition (August 17 to 31) by Alinytjara Wilurara and Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources staff, four volunteers and 25 local Aboriginal community members from Yalata.

DEWNR Alinytjara Wilurara coast project officer Yasmin Wolf said visitors to the Head of Bight were treated to sightings of large numbers of migrating whales while they reside in the area for their breeding season, which takes place from May to October.

Right whales gather in large numbers between May and October

Right whales gather in large numbers between May and October

"How long it takes before a female commences breeding, how often females breed, how long the calves stay with mothers, and movement between locations was some of the information surveyed," Ms Wolf said.

Whale ID
Ms Kumar said monitoring was conducted using binoculars to survey how many whales were in the area, and photographs were taken to record individual whales noting patters of callosities (roughed patches of skin colonised by crustaceans) on their head and other markings such as white blazes on their backs and undersides.

Previous results
"Monitoring results this year compare to 148 individuals including 67 calves in the GABMP during 2011 and 95 individuals including 42 calves in 2010," Ms Kumar said.

"The 2012 monitoring results are part of a three-year DEWNR study and will be added to a regional catalogue where-by individual whales can be matched to photographs taken of whales at other locations to understand their movements.

4 white calves
"Some interesting sightings this year included four white calves and a few pods of curious dolphins. This year we also took time to train local Aboriginal community members so they can take more ownership of the monitoring program in future."

The GABMP is part of the Alinytjara Wilurara region and was created in the 1990s to protect breeding southern right whales, Australian sealions and other marine life.

"South Australian areas such as the GABMP are popular with breeding whales because they are protected and have warm, shallow waters with a sandy ocean floor," Ms Kumar said.

The 2012 southern right whale monitoring results coincide with the State Government's launch of the public consultation period for South Australia's 19 marine parks.

Marine parks with effective zoning have been designed to help to protect threatened and endangered species, and the habitats they rely upon, like the southern right whale.

The proposed zoning, which will protect a range of animals and ecosystems, including other whale breeding hot spots, mangroves, fish breeding sites and important reef ecosystems, can be viewed at

One of the white calves flanked by 2 adults. Courtesy of S. Kumar, DEWNR 

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