Endangered Animals: Save the Whales!

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Image of whale tail with caption, "Individually, we are one drop, together, we are an ocean." The whale is a cetacean which is of the order (biological classification) that also includes dolphins . Whales are highly evolved mammals with a brain that is similar to ours. Only the Great Apes, elephants and dolphins have as much in common with humans. They are capable of complex emotions such as anger, compassion, altruism (why you hear of dolphins saving humans), grief, cooperation and complex communication. Dialects of whale songs have been discovered which allows whales to recognize family members from long distances. And the bad news, these intelligent animals are still being killed by some countries (Japan, Iceland and Norway) in whaling operations that are “called” scientific even though it is doubtful that they have a scientific purpose. Seven out of thirteen whale species are endangered. We need to do what we can to Save the Whales!

Infographics about the worlds' most Infographics about the worlds' most dangerous whales whales

Infographics about the worlds’ most endangered whales

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Infographics about the worlds' most endangered whales

Read about the World’s most endangered whales

A Little Whale History

Traditionally, whales were killed for their fat to be used in oil lamps and as lubricants. Whale products were also used in cosmetics. Chemicals in whale vomit were used in perfumes. Yuk! Whales were also a food source for many coastal or island communities. Tragically, whales were hunted to the brink of extinction. Some species are numbered below one hundred.

In 1986, commercial whaling was discontinued. However, there are three nations that continue the killing of whales in the name of scientific research: Norway, Iceland and Japan. You may have seen the television show where ships belonging to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society attempt to disrupt the Japanese ship while it is trying to kill a whale. While the killing is done for “scientific research”, the whale by-products are still sold commercially. While this has allowed some species of whale to begin to increase their numbers, other challenges are making it difficult for some to recover. Whaling needs to cease altogether to protect these magnificent animals.

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You might be surprised when you read about the whale brain that it is very similar to ours

What Other Challenges Do Whales Face?

Whales populations are threatened by pollution(oil and gas, chemical dumping), decimation of food sources, loss of habitat due to human encroachment (yes, even in the ocean), climate change, being entangled and eating plastic waste, being entangled in netting, sonar testing (they are sound sensitive), dying as a result of being caught incidentally as by-catch of the fishing industry, and ship strikes.

One type of pollution that many people don’t realize is so impactful on the whales is sound pollution. Whales use echolocation and other sounds to navigate, find food, find a mate and communicate with their family. “By sending out directional sounds and clicks, the whale listens to reflected echoes that bounce off objects in its path. The sound of the echo and how fast it returns allows the whale to form a visual picture of the object. A large squid, for example, creates a different picture for the whale than a small fish.” “About Whales.” Save the Whales. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2017. <http://www.savethewhales.org/about_whales.htm>.

Container ships, tankers, oil and gas activities (platforms and their construction, drilling, etc.) are serious sound polluters making it difficult for whales to use natural sound to communicate, mate, navigate and find food. Recent studies showed that whales, which had died caught up in gill nets, had damage to their ears. “Since sound plays a vital role in the life of whales, dolphins and porpoises, noise pollution must be considered a significant cause of death as increasing numbers of whales are stranding where sonar testing is being conducted.” “Save the Whales.” Save the Whales. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <http://www.savethewhales.org/threats.html>.

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Inside the Mind of a Golfer

Sound is very important to the survival of many whale (and dolphin) species.

Sound is very important to the survival of many whale (and dolphin) species.

Cool Audio Clips

At this site, http://oceansinitiative.org/resources/, you can compare the sounds of a quiet ocean to the sound of a ship passing. It would like having construction sounds (like a jackhammer) being played constantly through headphones that you couldn’t take off. Ugh! Not very romantic if you’re looking for a mate.

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Inside the Mind of a Golfer

Whales are killed with exploding harpoons

What Can Be Done to Save the Whales?

Solutions are being implemented to soften the noise. Shipbuilders are working with biologists to make quieter ships. Sound Check Station allow ships to discover if they are producing noise that can be fixed. Sensitive areas of whale habitat have slower speed limits and some areas are now off limits to certain noise producers.

What can you do?

Continue to educate yourself and others as to the amazing brain of the whale and how much like us they are. Support organizations that lobby the international community to continue to prohibit whaling. Also, support organizations that work to reduce sound pollution for whales and dolphins. In the last post of this series, we will publish a list of nonprofit organizations that work to protect whales and other endangered animals. Do your own research to make sure that they are a respected, legitimate organization and then support them in whatever way you can. We can’t let these amazing animals go extinct. We must Save the Whales!

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