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23 Oct First humpback whale calves arrive in Algoa Bay, South Africa

In last month’s Newsletter WCA Partner Raggy Charters gave us an update on the southern hemisphere humpback whale migration. At that point it was only the males that had been seen heading back south past Algoa Bay. Their job completed all that they now needed was a good feed in the Southern Ocean. The team at Raggy Charters then wondered when the first calves would show their faces.

Well on 7th October it happened, and they encountered two females and their calves really close in shore off the Cape Recife lighthouse near Port Elizabeth.

Conventional wisdom has it that the cows travel all the way to East Africa in order to give birth in the warm waters. However this does not always seem to be the case. At the humpback whale northern migration lookout station in Cape Vidal (north eastern part of South Africa just below Mozambique) in July this year observers noticed many cow/calf pairs moving past.

In previous years the team at Raggy Charters have also observed cow/calf pairs moving north. The question is, why do they give birth further south and then still take their calves all the way to East Africa? Surely this is an unnecessary energy expenditure? After reaching East Africa while breastfeeding a calf they then turn round and swim 4200 km back to their feeding grounds!

It just goes to show how much we have left to learn about this population of whales!

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