Right Whale Mother Adopts Orphaned Calf in Addition to Her Own Calf

”southern right whale

Mother right whale adopts orphaned calf: photo by African Wings

There is no sorrow greater than a mother’s when she has lost her babe. In my case, a calf. I am a Southern right whale, and I live off the Western Cape of South Africa. Recently I adopted a still nursing orphaned calf. This was in addition to my own calf, who is also still nursing. This is a highly unusual act because I am unrelated to this calf, and adopting him goes against all laws of nature.

I did not know this orphaned calf’s mother, and I wonder how she died. Did she die suddenly from a killer whale or human attack? Or was it something more insidious, like cancer from the myriad of toxic chemicals humans have dumped into the sea?

I tried to thwart the orphaned calf’s first few attempts to suckle, but soon my maternal instincts kicked in. I did what I hoped another right whale mother would do for me, which was to make sure that the calf I gave my life for survives to carries on my legacy. So I allowed this new calf to suckle. I could tell he had nursed for several months already, and he was very robust and playful.

My own calf and my adopted calf get along so well that I know I made the right decision. I feel so joyful watching them roll and play together. I also feel secure leaving them alone as they can protect each other. Usually mother and calf pairs are alone except for an occasional courting male.

Fortunately my reserve of blubber seems to be enough to nurse two calves. We are soon heading for our Antarctic feeding grounds, and I am hopeful that I will have enough milk before one of them weans!

I know that my kind was hunted almost to extinction, so I know that each right whale life saved is hope for the future.

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