Saturday, 18 February 2017

World Pangolin Day

The SIXTH annual World Pangolin Day is celebrated today, on the 18th of February. The first World Pangolin Day was celebrated in February 2012. This day is dedicated to the armor-clad mammals, resembling giant pine cones. World Pangolin Day provides the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about these unique yet vulnerable mammals as well as put the spotlight on their plight. The aim of this particularly important day is to draw as much attention to pangolins as possible because they’re still fairly unknown outside of Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, Pangolins are one of the most heavily trafficked mammals in the illegal wildlife trade. Their numbers are quickly declining in both Asia and Africa due to poaching and illegal hunting. However, there is some good news! Fortunately, at the most recent Conference of the Parties to CITES, held in South Africa during September 2016, all eight pangolin species were upgraded from Appendix II to Appendix I. Consequently, all pangolin species will receive the strictest global protections from trade.

Source: Arkive

Source:What Species
Worldwide, there are eight species ranging from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered.
Four pangolin species occur in Asia:
Indian Pangolin (also called Thick-tailed Pangolin), Manis crassicaudata
Phillipine Pangolin, Manis culionensis
Sunda Pangolin (also called Malayan Pangolin), Manis javanica
Chinese Pangolin, Manis pentadactyla

Four pangolin species occur in Africa:
Three-Cusped Pangolin (also called African White-Bellied Pangolin and Tree Pangolin), Manis tricuspis
Giant Ground Pangolin, Manis gigantea
Cape Pangolin (also called Temminck’s Pangolin), Manis temminckii
Long-Tailed Pangolin (also called Black-Bellied Pangolin), Manis tetradactyla

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), almost no information is available on population levels of any species of pangolin. They are rarely observed as a result of their secretive, solitary, and nocturnal habits, and there has been little research on their population densities.

Here are powerfully interesting pangolin facts:
·         Their name, “pangolin”, is derived from the Malay word “pengguling”, which loosely translates to “something that rolls up”. Together, the eight species comprise their very own Order: Pholidota.
·         Otherwise known as scaly anteaters.
·         They’re unique creatures that are covered in hard, plate-like scales, comprised of keratin.
·         Their scales cover their whole body from head to tip of tail — except for their undersides (it’s covered with a few sparse hairs).
·         Pangolins are insectivorous (feeding on insects) and predate almost exclusively on ants and termites.
·         They voluntarily constrict their ears and nostrils to keep insects out while they’re feeding.
·         They are the only scaled mammal.
·         They are predominantly nocturnal and elusive, secretive mammals.
·         To protect themselves, they curl into balls like hedgehogs.
·         Due to variation in their size and the size of their scales, each species of pangolin has a different range in terms of the number of scales.
·         Giant ground pangolins are the largest of all eight species - one was found to weigh 33 kilograms (72.6 pounds).
·         Long-tailed pangolins are the smallest, weighing around 2-3 kg (about 4-6 pounds).
·         A pangolin’s tongue can be longer than its body when fully extended is can be 40 cm long!
·         They do not have teeth and are unable to chew. Instead, they have long sticky tongues that they use to catch the insects they feed on.
·         They have large, curved claws that they use for pulling bark off trees and logs to find their insect prey.
·         Their large and elongated claws enable them to burrow underground for shelter and to excavate ant and termite nests for food, mixing and aerating the soil, improving nutrient quality of the soil and aids the decomposition cycle, providing a healthy substrate for lush vegetation to grow from.
·         They reach sexual maturity after two years, and typically only give birth to a single young.
·         Their gestation period is thought to last between 69–150 days, varying by species.
·         When born, the babies weigh around 8-450 grams (about 3-16 ounces), depending on the species, and have soft scales that harden fairly rapidly.
·         Young are usually weaned at around three months of age.
·         Baby pangolins travel around with their mothers by riding on the base of her tail.
·         The scales of these critters comprise about 20% of their total body weight.
·         When pangolins feel threatened, they curl up into a tight, almost impenetrable ball to protect their tender undersides. If caught, they will thrash about using their tail muscles. Because their scales have very sharp edges, they can slice the skin of a human or predator when they do this.
·         Pangolins have poor vision and hearing, but their sense of smell is quite strong.
·         Some species find shelter in trees, while others live in underground burrows.

So show your support for these under-appreciated animals today!


Having a whale of a time learning more about wonderful whales!

Source: Whales Underwater
Whales are some of the most amazing species living on this planet and inhabit all oceans of the world.

Here are wonderfully interesting facts about whales:
·         Whales belong to the order cetacea, meaning they’re mammals that are fully adapted to aquatic life. They are descendants of land-living animals which returned to water after living millions of years in land.
·         They are closely related to dolphins and porpoises.
·         Whales are mammals - calves grow inside their mothers. They have hair—though very little of it!
·         Like all mammals, whales breathe air into lungs, are warm-blooded (thus, they need to keep their body temperatures high), and feed their young milk.
·         They all have flippers designed for swimming, a tail with flukes used for navigating the water and nasal openings (blowholes) for breathing.
·         The blue whale is the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth. The biggest one recorded was a female in the Antarctic Ocean that was 30.5 m long (more than 3.5 times the length of a double-decker bus) with an estimated weight of 144 tonnes (about the weight of 2,000 men).
Source: Pinterest
·         A Cuvier's beaked whale has been recorded to dive to a depth of 3km for over 2 hours.
·         The North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales are the most endangered as there are only about 400-500 North Atlantic individuals currently and fewer than 100 North Pacific right whales. The Western Pacific grey whale may be down to the last 150 whales.
·         Beluga whales are known as the canaries of the sea as they make chirping sounds like the little yellow birds.
·         The humpback whales that feed in Antarctic waters and swim north to breed off the coasts of Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica make one of the longest confirmed migration of any mammal.
·         Sperm whales are seen as the loudest whales (they have been recorded making sounds at 230 decibels).
·         Whales can’t sleep for very long as they have to remember to go to the surface for air as needed.
·         In order to ensure that whales perform the basic functions to breathe, only one half of their brain will sleep at a time. Through this, they’re able to get the amount of rest that they need and still take care of this function that is necessary for their bodies to survive.
·         Whales are believed to be the only mammals that are able to adapt to the changing environment in the waters. This is imperative due to the impact that humans have had on their natural living environment.
·         They rely on layers of fat (called blubber) to help them stay warm. In order to generate it they’ll need to consume large amounts of food in the summer months. This way when they migrate to the warmer locations to stay warm they will have the insulation that they need. Most species of whales won’t eat as they migrate so they do lose some of that blubber in the process.
·         Whales can have a life span between 40 and 100 years.
·         Based on their physical characteristics these three groups are further separated into two suborders: Toothed Whales (the Odontoceti suborder) and Baleen Whales (the Mysticeti suborder).
·         Distinctly, all Baleen Whales have two blowholes and Toothed Whales only have one. Because whales have to fill their lungs with air, they rely on a blowhole at the top of their body.
·         Here are a few more distinctions between these two types of whales:

Toothed Whales
·         It includes all species of dolphin and porpoise along with whales such as the sperm whale, killer whale (Delphinidae), beluga whale, and narwhal whale.
·         They possess teeth and are capable of using echolocation to search for prey and navigate in low visibility areas.
·         Strangely toothed whales are only born with one blowhole as opposed to the two blowholes that baleen whales possess. An assumption is that toothed whales developed one of their blowholes into an echolocation system to help them survive in the ocean.
·         With regards to appearance, toothed whales characteristically have streamlined bodies designed for fast swimming, but some species do have stockier bodies than others.
·         Their teeth are very sharp.
·         When it comes to their teeth, the number of teeth that a toothed whale possesses can differ substantially.
·         Some toothed whales may also have teeth that are present only in their lower jaw (e.g. the sperm whale).
·         Not all toothed whales use teeth to hunt for food - some may only use their teeth to show aggression towards other whales or for self-defence and will consume their prey whole.
·         The types of foods they consumes are dependent upon their location.
·         Toothed Whales are carnivorous and they have teeth allowing them to easily hunt their prey. They prey on fish, squid, other whales, and marine mammals.

Baleen Whales
·         It includes the humpback whale, bowhead whale, blue whale, and minke whale among other large (toothless) whales.
·         They are generally larger than toothed whales both in terms of size and overall weight. However, they don’t have any teeth.
·         It is comprised solely of whales that possess baleen plates with bristles.
·         Due to a lack of teeth, they hunt for their food by sifting their prey out of the water with their baleen bristles by swimming towards their prey with their mouth open and catching their prey in the bristles which act like a filter by allowing water to escape while preventing their prey from being able to get out of the tightly packed bristles.
·         Depending on the whales species, they may either continuously skim the water with its mouth open or lunge towards a large swarm of prey and attempt to capture as many fish or krill as they possibly can in a single gulp.
·         When the whale has captured enough prey it will push the water out with its tongue and swallow the remaining food.
·         They have a relatively small throat when compared to the size of its stomach and body and they keep to a diet that consists of small, easily consumable prey.
·         They have a comb-like fringe, called a baleen, on the upper jaw, which is used to filter plankton, as well as small fish and crustaceans.
·         They are frequently found in areas where high quantities of krill and other small digestible ocean animals can be found as they require a constant supply of prey to stay healthy and thrive in the ocean.

Depending on the whales species their physical appearance and features can change dramatically. Their bodies resemble the streamlined form of a fish, while the forelimbs or flippers are paddle-shaped. The tail fins, or flukes, enable whales to propel themselves through the water. Most species have a fin on their backs, more commonly known as a dorsal fin. Beneath the skin lies a layer of fat (blubber), serving as an energy reservoir and as insulation. They breathe through blowholes, located on the top of the head so the animal can remain submerged.

Habitat and Range
Whales live only in water, and tend to stay where it is warmer. This is the reason why they’re observed along the coasts during the winter months. They migrate to other regions so they can keep their body temperatures high enough. Whales live in all of the world's oceans, though their specific range varies by species. Many whales are leaving their natural habitat as a result of climate changes from global warming, humans being in their natural locations in boats, and even the fact that their food sources are becoming scarce in particular areas. Most of the larger giant whales do live in areas that are cold, including the Artic. This is due to the fact that they have a high volume of blubber to help with their body temperatures. There are subdivisions of these whale habitats in the Artic. Some of them live off shore where there isn’t any ice. They go deep enough into the waters, offering them more warmth than the areas that are dense and have ice on the top.

Whales are very large mammals so, unsurprisingly, they consume large amounts of food each day. The diet of whales depends on their species; it can range from microscopic plankton to large marine mammals. They are very good predators and find what they need to fill up on in the waters where they live. Even though, whales do prefer larger fish for their meals, they will resort to consuming the microscopic organisms found in the water if the food supply is scarce. Some types of whales have very large stomachs so they don’t eat every day (for example the Blue Whale can hold up to 2,200 pounds of food). The more aggressive predators (e.g. the Tooth Whales) eat larger fish and other aquatic life. Although, they do have teeth, most of them don’t use them to tear apart their food. Instead, they use the teeth for the killing process only and then end up swallowing their prey whole. The habits vary considerably based upon the species of whale and the region that they live in. Female whales produce milk in the mammary glands that they’re able to feed to their young.

Source: Pinterest
Male whales are mature between 7 and 10 years of age. For females maturity occurs about 5 to 7 years of age. Since the gestation period ranges from 10 to 16 months, it depends on the type of whale and how far they migrate and what their migration time frame is.  Males will come to other pods for the chance to mate with their females, reducing inbreeding among these mammals. A female that is mature will generally have a new calf every 2 or 3 years. They typically only give birth to one calf at a time. Twins can be found but this rarely occurs. The calves are born with their fins emerging first. The offspring are born during the migration process in most cases. Some of them consume up to 400 liters of milk every day. Others will consume about half of that amount. They’ll continue to feed from their mother for at least their first year. Thereafter, they will be taught to hunt so that they can get their own food. Generally a calf is about a quarter of the mother’s length. Thus, it means that some of the larger offspring (e.g. those from Blue Whales) will be bigger at birth than other whales will be when they’re fully mature. Young whales tend to have a very good chance of surviving to their own maturity.

Communication and Vocalizations
Whales have a very intriguing method of communicating known as echolocation. When you listen to the sounds that whales make to communicate, you will notice they are very unique. They are able to get their sounds to travel for miles as the sound waves move along in the water and get more power from bouncing off what is found in it. Then the sounds will echo back to the whale that sends them. This form of communication can go one mile each second. Their sounds are very unique. Clicks are part of the basis of such communication as it helps them to navigate through the waters. Since whales create small pods, there are communications that are varied in them. During this mating season, changes in the calls and communications among the whales occur.

Whale singing
Male humpback whales sing the most complex songs and have long, varied, eerie, and beautiful songs that include recognizable sequences of squeaks, grunts, and other sounds. The songs have the largest range of frequencies used by whales, ranging from 20-9,000 hertz. Only male humpback whales have been recorded singing. They sing these complex songs only in warm waters where they breed and give birth. In cold waters, they make rougher sounds, scrapes and groans, perhaps used for locating large masses of krill (the tiny crustaceans that they eat). Singing is another form of communication that only the humpback whales engage in. They are more apt to sing these songs when they are migrating and mating. It is almost like written lyrics that then come to a familiar chorus. These songs can be up to 30 minutes in length. The sounds can travel as far as 100 miles from the location of the humpback whale that created it.

The various whale communications increase during the mating season. The males often sing low songs to the females as a way to court them. These low songs serve as a warning to other males in the area though to stay away. It could be also mean that the female he is interested and lets other males know that they need to find someone else for their own interests.

Echolocation and Navigation
When it comes to navigating the ocean (whether to search for food or avoid collision with nearby objects in dark areas) the toothed whale suborder is capable of navigating the ocean and hunting for food using echolocation, allowing these whales to create sounds and determine the distance, size, density and speed of objects in the areas by interpreting the echo’s frequency and measuring the time it takes for the emitted sounds to come back to them. It also allows cetaceans to coordinate attacks with one another when searching for prey as it allows them to identify where their team is and what they are doing. Toothed whales keep track of the location of specific pod members as they swim below the oceans surface or travel in groups, which is particularly important when a mother wants to keep track of her child. While previously thought to be exclusive among the toothed whale species, research suggests that echolocation may also be present in some baleen whale species, but the extent and capabilities of echolocation among baleen whales remains unknown.

Whales have two primary seasons (with the exception of a few species) of migration that are known as feeding season and mating season. Depending on their location and the time of the year these marine mammals will migrate between the cold and warm climates during these two seasons. During feeding months (the colder months of the year) whales will travel to their local feeding grounds and spend their time consuming as much prey as possible.

Whales have no natural predators in the water and, thus, have been able to live for many years in the water if the conditions are right.

Social Structure
The social structure for whales is one that is very interesting. Whales have the ability to develop a social hierarchy, play games together, teach each other survival strategies and hunt in cohesive well-organized groups. They are avid communicators.

Generally the pods of whales are relaxed and friendly in nature, except during mating season. Many whales, especially baleen whales, tend to migrate long distances from their cold-water feeding grounds to warm-water breeding grounds each year. They travel alone or in groups, or pods, on their annual migrations. Toothed whales often hunt in groups, migrate together and share young-rearing duties.Most whales are quite active in the water. They jump high, or breach, out of the water and land back in the water. They also thrust their tails out of the water and slap the water's surface, which is believed to be a warning of danger nearby. 
Humans and Whales
The future for whales could be in jeopardy due to the continual destruction of their living areas. As waste is allowed to pollute the waters that they live in they will become less populated. They also have to move to new locations when their own food sources move on. Consequently, they are more likely to get caught up in fixing nets and hit by boats.

Threats to Whales
Whales have also, like most marine creatures, felt the effects of climate change. Sea level rise and changes in sea temperature will leave whales considerably vulnerable, and they may not be able to adapt rapidly enough in order to survive. Moreover, higher water temperatures in the Antarctic Ocean are reducing populations of krill, a small-shrimp-like crustacean. This is the main food source for many large whale species. Whaling is one of the biggest threats to whales. Moreover, various species of small whales are caught as bycatch in fisheries for other species. Exposure to contaminants and pollution threaten whales.

Whales are considered one of the most intelligent animals on earth. Scientists have studied whale intelligence for decades and have learned a lot about their hunting methods, social structure, breeding habits and various other indicators related to what most people would consider social, survival and individual intelligence. Whales can communicate their desires such as wanting to play or an interest in mating, hunting strategies and the location of potential prey and warn other pod members of nearby threats such as sharks or killer whales as well as communicate other important aspects of their lives. When it comes to cetaceans that have developed close relationships with family and friends, these marine mammals can be seen protecting one another from predators and other potential threats. They show deep emotions in their ability to connect with others, morn death and celebrate vitality.

Whale Beaching
Annually, approximately 2000 whales end up beaching themselves and dying. While many beached whales end up stranded on a beach or sandy environment a whale can end up beaching itself anyplace where the ocean meets land. The causes of most beachings are generally as a result of sickness, a loss of direction, an injury or a deceased whale brought in by the tide. As a whale ends up stranding itself on land it ultimately dies due to dehydration, difficulty breathing (whales are extremely heavy and may be crushed by their own weight) or drowning caused by the high tides when water rises above the whale’s head preventing it from breathing through its blowhole.

Source: Pinterest
BLUE WHALE - Balaenoptera musculus
Source: WWF
·         Blue Whales belong to the baleen category.
·         The blue whale appears to be closer to a grayish blue rather than a deep blue color when at the surface of the water, but when it dives the light distortion of the water gives this whale its deep blue appearance.
·         Blue Whales are very large whales that can measure up to 108 feet and weight about 190 tons.
Source: TreeHugger
·         The tongue alone of a blue whale can weigh as much as an elephant!
·         Their heart is about the size of a VW Beetle car and weighs up to 450kg (about the size of a VW Beetle car).
·         The new-born calf is about 7.5 m long and weighs about 5.5 – 7.3 tonnes and drinks about 225 litres of its mother’s fat-laden milk (it is 40-50% fat) a day, gaining 3.7 kilograms an hour, until at age 8 months they are 15 m long and 22.5 tonnes!
·         The mother and calf may stay together for a year or longer, until the calf is about 13 m long.
·         Blue whales reach maturity at 10-15 years.
·         Their call can reach levels up to 188 decibels and last up to 30 seconds.

The Blue Whale belongs to the baleen category. Blue Whales are very large whales that can measure up to 105 feet and weight about 190 tons. The Blue Whale is the largest of all the whales in the world. In fact, it is the largest mammal in the world. Yet it is also very slender due to the length of the body. It allows all of that weight to be evenly distributed. As a result, the Blue Whale can move very fast in the water. To help a Blue Whale move around with ease, they have very long flippers. They average from 10 to 13 inches in length when one is fully mature. They are able to move at a rate of about 30 miles per hour through the water when they want to. A normal pace for them though is more along the lines of 12 miles per hour.

Blue Whales tend to be the loners of the world of whales. Occasionally, a pair of them can be observed, but not more than that. Most frequently will be a mother and her baby. At times it may appear though that they form large clans, but it is due to the abundance of food in a given region though than their behaviors relating to interactions with each other. They can only remain under water for about 20 minutes before surfacing for air. As a result they are very often watched by those interested in seeing large sized whales.

They daily consume very large amounts of small krill and other life forms. They search for squid and will feed on it alone when it is plentiful.  On average, they will daily consume about 8,000 pounds of food each day. Because baby Blue Whales consume anything from 100 to 150 gallons of milk from their mother each day, feeding them is a full time job.

There are several subspecies. Thus, they’re often misidentified as another type. They are mainly found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Some have been identified along the Indian Ocean as well. They used to be found in all the bodies of ocean water out there, but their numbers have dropped considerably.

They have a very long season when it comes to the mating process. It begins in the late autumn and runs through the winter. Females are mature at about 10 years and males are mature around 12 years of age.  A female will have a calf every two or three years. The offspring are about 23 feet long at birth and can weigh up to three tons.

Conservations efforts have been in place for the Blue Whale since the 1960’s. Their numbers are now around 12,000. They can live a very long life of up to 80 years in the wild if such conservation efforts take place.

HUMPBACK WHALEMegaptera novaeangliae
Source: National Geographic Kids
It’s one of the most recognized of them all due to the hump over the dorsal fin. They have an average size of 52 feet long. There is quite a difference in their sizes depending on location when it comes to weight. Those that live in cooler regions can be up to 40 tons whiles those in the tropical areas are about 30 tons. They have a very long tail that can be up to a third of body length. They have huge flippers that are often referred to as wings do to the position of them as they leap out of the water. Their heart has four chambers.

They tend to do plenty of great moves and flips in the air effortlessly as they rise to the surface for air. Another characteristic is to lift up the head and not the rest of the body, giving the appearance that they are very curious about their surroundings. They are extremely social, and sing louder than most other. Their songs can be heard for several miles. They form very small and intimate groups and stay in the same groups for most of their lives, too.

They have a more detailed feeding system than any other whale. They feature grooves on the throat, allowing it to open up and to expand when they eat, thereby taking in huge amounts of water. The filtering system keeps the food and pushes the water out. They’re seasonal feeders. They cut down to almost nothing when they migrate. They consume from 3,000 pounds of food daily if available. They have a very detailed system within their pod to help them with hunting for food, called bubble net feeding. They create a circle under the water with their bodies and then blow bubbles. The bubbles trap the small sea life that they would like to consume. This mass of prey will rise up and then they eat it with ease. This is particularly helpful since they don’t swim very fast (up to 9 miles per hour), but they can reach up to 16 miles per hour at times.

They are generally found at the surface of the ocean waters. They migrate long distances. Because they move slowly, it takes them a while to complete the process. However, they do move steadily towards their destination with almost no time to stop and rest.

After conception it can be close to 11.5 months before the calf is born. Caring for these calves can be hard though due to them consuming many gallons of milk every day. Their mating process is somewhat unknown, except for the deep, eerie songs that the males will belt out for courting process of it.

Gloomily, there are very few Humpback Whales left. It is estimated that there can’t be more than 15,000 of them in the world. Conservation efforts have been initiated to help them to climb back up there. One can live up to 50 years in the wild if they have the umbrella of protection that they need.

GRAY WHALES - Eschrichtius robustus
Source: Wikipedia

They are the second largest whale. They migrate huge distances. In fact, some may even rival the humpback for distance travelled. Some travel a round-trip of between 16,000–20,000 km (10,000–12,400 miles) every year between their winter calving lagoons in the warm waters of Mexico and their summer feeding grounds in the cold Arctic seas, however a female grey whale has recently been recorded as having made an even longer round-trip of 22,500km (14,000 miles) migrating between the east coast of Russia and the breeding grounds of Mexico. In its lifetime (that’s about 40 years), they travel a distance that is equivalent to going to the moon and back!

Despite their size, the fin whale is known as the "greyhound of the sea". They can reach speeds of up to 20mph (32kph)! Whales have their own hierarchy in their groups that is very closely followed. They are excellent parents to their offspring and they are able to communicate with a variety of sounds. They value their relationships with each other.

The physical design of the whale is very complex yet this why they are able to survive in the water. Nevertheless, they have some characteristics that make them quite familiar in various ways. They primarily depend on their flippers and their dorsal fins to help them move in the water and to stay balanced. They have blowholes at the top of them where they take in air. Then they can be submerged under the water for a period of time before they need to take another breath.

NARWHAL WHALE - Monodon monoceros
Source: Pinterest
The Narwhal Whale is a toothed whale. It fits in about the mid-range when it comes to sizes of whales. One of their dissimilar characteristics for the males is a tusk that is very long and straight along the jaw. Mature males are up to 3,500 pounds with females much smaller at 1,800 pounds. When they are young, they are black and white but by the time they are mature they will be completely white with some patches.

They can dive very deeply in order to help regulate the body temperature as the water will be warmer where it is deeper. They can spend a lot of time underneath thick sheets of ice too before they have to find a crack in it for air or come completely to the surface. They can dive from 2,600 feet to 4,900 feet. They are social mammals and gather in large groups. There are normally 10 to 15 in a clan. When there are several males, they may rub tusks with each other in a manner. While they migrate seasonally, they have a very short distance that they follow. This is believed to be due to the specific foods that they consume. They are more precise about what they consume than most other forms of whales out there.

They have a very specialized diet and this is why they don’t migrate. Some of the most popular foods that they consume include cod, halibut, squid, and shrimp. Their diet will depend on what time of year it happens to be. In the winter months they will consume what are known as flatfish under the layers of ice. One of the biggest threats out there to this particular type of whale is global warming. As the layers of ice in this area melt there is less of a food selection. Climate changes can make it hard for them to find enough food to survive on at times.

You will mainly find the Narwhal Whale out there around the Artic areas. They have been found to reside around Canada and Russia. The most recent count is approximately 75,000 of them.

Very little is actually known about the reproduction process for the Narwhal Whale. This is due to the time of year when they do it and the limited access available to humans in such remote areas. It is believed that the gestation period is from 10 to 16 months in length. It is also believed that the young only nurse from 4 to 6 months rather than the first year of life which is standard for whales.

SPERM WHALE - Physeter macrocephalus
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
·         It’s the largest of all toothed whales.
·         When people observe a sperm whale, they usually think of the story of Moby Dick.
·         Sperm whales are great divers as adults can stay underwater for almost two hours and dive to depths of 2,000 metres or more. They eat squid, which can live very deep in the ocean, so sperm whales have to dive down into the deepest parts of the sea to catch them.
·         The sperm whale’s huge head (it is up to a third of its overall body length, houses the heaviest brain in the animal kingdom - up to 9kg).

The Sperm Whale is the largest of toothed whales, and many people immediately think of the story of Moby Dick when they see one. It is well known for the grayish color that it features. The unique body design also offers a very large head with rows of sharp teeth. Full grown, one is about 67 feet in length and will weigh close to 56 tons. They only have one blowhole and a brain that weighs close to 20 pounds. This is the largest brain of any animal on Earth. The flippers of the Sperm Whale are extremely large. They get their name from the fact that they produce Spermaceti Oil. This is produced in their heads.

It holds the record for being able to dive deeper than any other whale. It can go to the depths of 3,300 feet. They form pods with very strong emotional bonds. It is very interesting to observe how they interact with each other and how they care for one another. They nurture their young and even care for those that have been injured or become ill. Many people think that the Sperm Whale is very lazy. It often is seen engaging in a behavior called logging. This is a position where they remain just below the surface of the water. The tail will be completely submerged though. They simply float in this position and are very calm. They are often seen moving at a speed of about 3 miles per hour. However, they can move close to 25 miles per hour for short periods of time if necessary. A sperm whale's sound lasts for only around 100 microseconds (a microsecond is 1 millionth of a second).

The fact that the Sperm Whale can dive so deep helps tremendously when it comes to feeding. They are bottom feeders and easily access what is at the bottom of the waters. Common prey includes squid, fish, eels, and even an occasional octopus. Many Sperm Whales have been noted to have scars all over their heads. They are believed to be the result of squid that attack when they are going to be eaten. They can easily consume up to a ton of food daily. They are often heard making sounds in the waters. It was once thought that these were only to communicate with each other. It is now believed that some of these sounds are actually used to attract prey to them in the murky waters where they don’t have good visibility.

You will find the Sperm Whales in most oceans out there. They enjoy both the tropical and the cooler bodies of water.

Female Sperm Whales only have offspring every 5 years so with low numbers of them it is hard for them to increase. Other females will assist with the birth which is quite fascinating for animals to be a part of. These calves drink milk for up to two years which is twice as long as other baby whales.
The females are very protective of their young. The work together to make sure that they are well cared for to. One or two of the females will dive to bring food to the young while other females care for all of them. The young can’t dive as deeply for food due to their need to surface frequently for air. As it gets older that capacity will increase and they can get their own food.

Since the Sperm Whale is endangered, there are plenty of conservation efforts out there for it. There are about 200,000 of them remaining at this time. However, it is easier now that the demand for oil from whales has dramatically diminished. Their numbers initially dropped though due to aggressive hunting by whalers.

BELUGA WHALE - Delphinapterus leucas
Source: National Geographic Kids 
Belugas are toothed whales. They’re about 13-15 feet in length. It has a whitish color and has a type of formation to the head that is sticking out slightly. It is a toothed whale and has quite a bit of flexibility for movement around the head. The males can weigh up to 3,500 pounds with the females smaller at around 2,600. Many people mistakenly believe that it has a dorsal fin, but it’s categorized as a ridge instead of a fin. They have short flippers and a long tail. The older they get, the longer the tail will become. Adult beluga whales are easily distinguished by their often pure white skin, their small size and their lack of dorsal fin. Belugas have a broad, rounded head and a large forehead. They have a five-inch-thick layer of blubber and a tough dorsal ridge that helps them travel through sea ice waters. They have broad, paddle-like flippers and notched tails. Unlike other cetaceans, belugas can move their head up, down, and side-to-side because their cervical vertebrae are not fused. This adaptation is believed to help them manoeuvre and catch prey in silt-laden or ice-covered areas.

They have a very high pitched sound, used for socializing. Interestingly, they spend more time interacting with each other than any other type of whale. The males are inclined to form large clans with thousands of them during migrations. Females along with their babies form their own clans but tend to keep them smaller in size. They remember their mothers and bond year after year. They can dive thousands of feet into the waters. Most of the time, they stay closer to the top. They have to surface for air approximately every 20 minutes. They will dive deep in order to find food as they can get down and back up very quickly. Belugas forage for food in the water column and on the seabed, typically takes place at depths of up to 1,000 feet, but they can dive to at least twice this depth. Belugas congregate and travel in groups from 2-3 to as many as several hundred.

Belugas are known to use sound to find their prey. They swim slowly so that it can find the food it desires, consisting mainly of fish. During the migration process, their pattern tends to follow the salmon. But, they do consume crab, squid, and even shrimp when it’s available. They are opportunistic feeders, feeding on salmon, eulachon, tomcod, smelt, char, rainbow sole, whitefish, saffron and arctic cod, herring, shrimp, mussels, octopus, crabs, clams, mussels, snails, and sandworms.

Distribution and range
They are well adapted to their arctic and sub-arctic environment. They are mainly found in Russia, Canada, Alaska, and Greenland and move to shallow bays during summers. They do migrate quite a distance in the winter though to get to warmer waters. They’re able to find cracks in the ice so that they can get air as needed when they come up from the depths of the water. They’re distributed throughout seasonally ice-covered arctic and subarctic waters. They inhabit waters off the shores of Russia, Greenland, Canada, Norway, and the United States (Alaska). They are found close to shore or in the open sea. During the summer months in some areas they gather in the estuaries of rivers to feed and calve. Some are migratory within their limited range, while others remain residents of a specific area.

They also use sound to communicate and navigate by producing a variety of clicks, chirps and whistles.

The majority of the time, the females can conceive from February and May. The baby will nurse from its mother for about 2 years before venturing on its own. Young belugas are usually dark grey in color. The grey progressively lightens as they grow up - reaching their permanent color by the age of seven for females and nine for males. Calves nurse for about two years. The mating season is from late winter to early spring. The gestation period is 15 months and the number of offspring is one calf.

Although it’s difficult for an accurate count as they’re so widely distributed, it is estimated that their numbers are in the hundreds of thousands.

All of these whales found in Alaska are protected due to them being on the endangered species list. They can survive in the wild for about 50 years, but there are less than 100,000. This particular whale has a predator other than humans which is rare: they’re often hunted by polar bears and killer whales. They biggest conservation efforts involve keeping the waters free from pollution.

Because they eat marine species that are most common each season, they play an imperative role in the health of the overall ecosystem. Furthermore, they are one of Alaska’s most well-known marine animals and a key draw for tourists and residents traveling along the coastal areas in the state.

Some of the other species include:
Fin Whale
The fin whale (nicknamed the razorback) is the second largest animal in the world.
Source: WWF

Minke Whale
The smallest of the baleen category is the Minke Whale. They aren’t likely to be more than 30 feet long or to weigh more than 7 tons.
Source: Pinterest
Pilot Whale
They are dark black in color most of the time. Some of them are a dark gray. There are two species of the Pilot whale, but it is often very hard to tell them apart.
Source: Whales Forever
Right Whale
They can weigh up to 100 tons as well as be up to 60 feet long.
Source: Australia Animal Learning Zone

Bowhead Whale
Today the bowhead whale is also called with several other names including Greenland right whale, Arctic whale, polar whale, steeple-top and Russian whale.
Source: Dog breeds