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Species Highlight – Southern Right Whale

The Southern Right Whale is a treasure amongst the Australian cetacean species and was almost lost to history back in the days of whaling. Targeted by the whalers due to their large size, friendly nature and proximity to the coastline their numbers declined over a short period of time. Protected over one hundred years ago there has been a slow and steady recovery of the population with numbers now estimated to be between 3 to 4,500 individuals. The futures looking bright for the Southern Right Whales of Australia who continue to defy the odds and return from near extinction to reclaim their title a one of Australia’s most loved whale species.

Weighing in at 60-80 tonnes and measuring 14-18 meters in length the Southern Right is a giant of the sea. Short pectoral fins help to stabilise them when living in the shallow waters off our coastline during their breeding and calving season in the winter and spring. Due to their immense size and well insulating blubber reserves the migration north doesn’t need to be as far with the vast majority of the population travelling to southern stretches of the Australian coastline. Perth through to Sydney tends to be the main range for these whales during their migration but not much further north on either side of the coastline, occasional exceptions do occur.

Females gestation is 10-11 months and her calf will remain by her side for approximately one year before separating. The calving intervals appear to be every three to four years but this is largely dependant on the female. The Southern Right Whale is identified by the hard patches of skin on the lower and upper jaws of each whale that are known as callosities. Documented by photographs and drone images, each Southern Right will have a unique callosity pattern which is used to identify them throughout their life. A true gentle giant, we have the privilege of seeing these incredible whales every year in the nursery grounds of Flinders Bay, Augusta.

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