20 August 2009

Scientific confirmation rare Southern Right whales migrate to Tasmania

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Scientists have confirmed that endangered Southern Right whales are again migrating to Australia to give birth in waters in Tasmania, southern Australia, for the first time in 200 years.

Migrate to Australia

New scientific evidence shows the rare Southern Right whale has started to migrate to Australia to breed and give birth.

Australian scientists have suspected for a few years that the waters around the southern island of Tasmania have once again been turned into a nursery for Southern Right whales. The whales became scarce after excessive whaling in the early 1800s.

Two weeks ago a mother and newborn calf were spotted in Great Oyster Bay near Swansea on Tasmania’s east coast. Scientists examined the photographs and today confirmed the calf was no more than two days old, which meant it had been born in the area.

Marine biologist David Pemberton said the confirmation that the recently sighted calf was born in Tasmanian waters was critical to the ongoing recovery of the species. There are approximately 1,500 of these whales which migrate to Australia each year out of the estimated 60,000 in the world.

Mr Pemberton said there have been mother-calf pairs reported for quite a few years, but they needed scientific proof they were breeding in this area.

The news today confirming that is very exciting after the Southern Right whale population, which became an internationally protected species in 1935, had all but disappeared.

Like the Eastern Australian humpback, the Southern Right whales migrate to Australia from Antarctica during the southern hemisphere’s winter months to mate, breed and nurse their young. In spring they then return south.

Now it has been confirmed the whales have returned to nurse in Tasmanian waters, scientists will be able to better protect their birthing locations. Hopefully soon Tasmania will again be a popular breeding ground for hundreds of whales.

To visit Australia to view the whale migration, unless you have an Australian or New Zealand passport, tourists will need to obtain an ETA visa.
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