First Southern Right Calf Born in Algoa BayTuesday, 20th July 2021
By Lloyd Edwards
We were so lucky to welcome the first Southern Right calf to be born in Algoa Bay. The birth was very recent, as the calf still had the evidence of fetal folds on its skin. These are caused by the calf being “folded” up inside its mother’s womb.
We spotted the cow calf pair close to the shore off Hougham Park, just North of St Croix Island. Last week we observed two adults in the same area. The reason the cow calf pairs hang out here is because of the gently sloping shore profile and hence less water movement. This allows them to conserve energy and for the calf to grow faster. The mother converts her blubber reserves into rich and nutritious milk. This milk contains 43% fat compared to the 3,3% that human milk contains. It has the consistency of toothpaste, which prevents it from being wasted while feeding under the water.
There is another good reason why the pair stays close inshore and communicates in whispers. This low volume of communication coupled with the breaking waves prevents detection by killer whales. Killer whales would not hesitate to attack and drown the vulnerable calf and only eat the tongue. The calf will probably spend around two months in our waters before it is strong enough to undertake the long journey back to the feeding grounds in the Southern ocean. The female also needs to judge her blubber reserves so that she has enough energy to reach her food source.
Southern Right cow with calf in tow
The "Skelmhoek Dunefields" which are the beginning of the Alexandria Dunefields make the perfect backdrop for the pair
This female was around 15 metres long and over 40 tons. They give birth on average every three years.
A distinguishing feature of the Southern right whale is that it lacks a dorsal fin.
Their head is covered with a pattern of yellowish-white wart like callosities. They differ between individuals and allows scientists to recognize them.
The callosity right at the end of the upper jaw is known as the bonnet. These were the first whales to be hunted in Algoa Bay until there was an International Moratorium declared on hunting them in 1938.
And for some FUN and to involve the community with this exciting news, together with THe Herald we ran a Name the First Southern Right Whale born in Algoa Bay competition - the response was overwhelming - thank you to all who entered.. winning name below...
And the Winner is: