Eight new North Atlantic right-wing whale calves have been born this calving season. Although it may seem small, right whales consider this a huge number. Only 336Every calf born to one of these whales is a sign that there is hope for their future.
For these critically-endangered gentle giants, eight new calves is a step in the right direction. Although we would like to see at least 10 to 15 calves this year to save this species, we are still far away from that goal. Right now, scientists estimate two dozenIf the population is to grow and stabilize, right whale calves must be born every calving season.
Snow Cone, a right whale mother, has been in the limelight–not just because of the good news about her calf. Snow Cone was photographed with her baby in November. However, the happy pictures of the baby enjoying a frolicking with its mother were marred with a reminder of the dangers facing the species. The pictures showed the baby playing with the strong, plastic fishing rope that was tied in Snow Cones mouth.
Snow Cone is a popular name among right whale watchers who have been following them for years. The story of this young right-hand whale mother is a great example of the dire state of the species.
This is her story. In December 2019, Snow ConeHer first calf, a male, was born off the coast northeastern Florida. Snow Cone and her newborn calf traveled into Mexico, where boats followed them at a dangerously close distance. Tragically, Snow Cone’s calf, who was only 6 months old, was found dead off Florida’s coast. New JerseyTwo separate boat strikes claimed the lives of the victim.
Snow Cone was a joyous new mother who was left to grieve and be alone. She persevered. Snow Cone became pregnant with her second child less than a year later.
Snow Cone experienced one of her most dangerous situations during her pregnancy: She was Entangled In fishing gear
Fishing gear can entangle right whales. The ropes can wrap around their head, flippers, and mouth, cutting into their flesh and even amputating their fins. Ropes can cause them to become unable to swim and feed properly, which can lead to a slow death. They may not be able to reproduce if they can’t free themselves.
Snow Cone, despite being entangled in the ropes, gave birth to a healthy calf late 2021. Snow Cone now swims happily beside her calf and uses vital energy nursing. However, the ropes could endanger her ability to properly care for and feed her baby. Snow Cone’s life could be at risk if she is freed from the ropes. Unfortunately, her future health and that of her calf are uncertain as long as she is in this position. Snow Cone and her calf are in a difficult situation right now. We can only pray for their good health.
We can’t change the Snow Cones situation, but we can change the circumstances that led to them. We must do all we can to ensure the survival of this species. This includes developing clear rules to limit vessel strikes and prevent fishing gear entanglements. We must make Snow Cones tragedies the exception, and not the norm.