Ocean of Hope

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.

This post was based on this article

The 200 year old Bowhead Whale: the Oldest Mammal on Earth

Greenland right whale
The 200 year old Bowhead Whale

I am a bowhead whale. I just celebrated my 200th birthday this year. That makes me the oldest living mammal on the planet! Sure, trees can live thousands of years, and the oldest living tree on earth is a bristlecone pine who is 4,841 years old, but look at me, I am twice as old as a tortoise!

To give you perspective, the year I was born was 1812. That year is known for the War of 1812, and it was when Francis Scott Key wrote the United States’ national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. Also, you may think of Tchaikovsky’s famous 1812 Overture.

The most amazing aspect of my life is that I avoided being hunted and killed by any whaling boats. Most of my friends were not as lucky as me. I chalk it up to a sixth sense of knowing when humans are around and avoiding them. Thank goodness bowhead whales were banned from commercial whaling in 1943.

We are also known as Greenland right whales. We can reach lengths of 60 feet (18m) and weigh over 100 tons (89 metric tons). Bowhead whales can live so long because we live in the icy Arctic. One explanation for my longevity is having a core body temperature lower than those animals living in warmer oceans.

Whaling is now low on my list of worries, and ocean pollution is now at the top. Food tastes different now because of all the tiny plastic bits that my food, the microscopic-sized plankton, ingests. Plastic is everywhere in the ocean, and all ocean life is affected by it. See Alby the Albatross’ post for more on plastic ocean pollution.

For more on how humans figured out how old I am, click here

UPDATE: Scientists have found a 507 year old clam named Ming!

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