ALARMING NUMBER OF SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE CALF FATALITIES
BLOG 6 – September 2013 – Research Station in Península Valdés
I make “focal animal follows” of mothers and their calves to determine the amount of time they spend in high and low energy behaviors. The Península Valdés right whales have a big problem. An unusually high number of calves have died on this calving ground since 2005. We have examined 582 dead, conducting necropsies when the bodies are in good enough condition but, as yet, have found no common cause for the deaths. In doing the follows, I am trying to find behavioral clues that will allow us to assess the health of calves, for instance, how often they have to breathe and how energetic they are.
Over the weekend we held a meeting of the Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Team to discuss progress and problems in surveying the beaches for the dead whales and findings from the 17 calves that have died this year.
The team includes from left to right: Marcel Uhart, a wildlife veterinarian at U of California Davis who co-directs the program with me and Mariano Sironi; Matias di Martino (in blue shirt) Field Team Coordinator and Veterinarian; two of his field assistants; Mariano; and Luciano Valenzuela our research and genetics specialist on the right.
A peludo (armadillo) made a surprise visit to the meeting to help us eat our facturas (pastries).
By Vicky Rowntree, Right Whale Program Director