Researchers listed right whales as an endangered species, as there are only around 500 specimens living near the North American coast. Also, their future is not too bright. Last winter, researchers registered the lowest birth rate among right whales in 17 years. This made the environmentalists more worried about this species.
Extremely low number of calves spotted this year
During the winter season, these whales swim off the coast of Georgia and Florida to give birth. Usually, environmentalists keep track of the whale newborns by performing flights above the waters and looking for mother-and-calf pairs. This year, the score was extremely low. They only spotted three newborns swimming next to their mothers.
The previous lowest number ever registered is one calf, spotted in 2000. This year’s birth rate might be considered low, if you compare it with the average of 17 registered in other years. A bad year for births does not mean that the species is endangered. However, researchers have constantly recorded low birth rates over the past five years.
A low birth rate this year might have an impact on the reproduction of the species ten years from now. At the time, the calves born this season will reach sexual maturity and a low number of them might also affect future right whale populations.
The right whales’ situation might not be as grim as we think
Mother whales have marks on their heads which help researchers tell one from another. They have also created a facial recognition tool to help them keep track of the population and help preserve it. Thus, they could tell that none of the whales gave birth for the first time. Also, they could find out that these were their first calves in seven or eight years, which is quite a big period of time between births.
However, some scientists are skeptical about declaring that right whales are in danger. After the extremely low birth rate from 2000, the situation changed and the populations registered 31 birth the next year. As they have previously seen, researchers think that birth rates improve after a bad year.
They are optimistic that the situation would improve during the next years. Several sightings reported that the right whales looked healthier and more robust than they used to and more of them went feeding near Nova Scotia.
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