Calf may be first since end of whaling
Sun, 22 Jul 2012 1:14p.m.
A newborn whale calling Western Southland home may be the first southern right whale calf born in New Zealand waters since whaling finished in the 1960s.
Conservation Department biodiversity ranger Ros Cole told Fairfax Media she saw the southern right whale cow and her newborn calf in Colac Bay on Thursday.
The calf was born earlier in the week and the pair could be seen from the beach with binoculars.
"They were basically hunted to extinction and it's pretty special it has chosen Colac Bay," she said.
The calf was 4 metres long and weighed about 950kg. Adult whales grew to about 18 metres.
The gender of the calf was unknown but it was healthy and jet black like its mum, Ms Cole said.
Otago University research fellow Will Rayment said if the calf had been born off New Zealand it was significant. Its small size meant that was likely.
Before whaling destroyed their population, they would have bred regularly offshore.
"Commercial whaling pretty much wiped them out. Now we're starting to see them recover."
Dr Rayment and a team from the University of Otago leave on Tuesday for the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands to study the right whales.
There are around 50-60 calving females a year around the islands, he said.
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