Sea life is always fascinating, but sometimes there are problems too. One of them emerged earlier this week as researchers caught sight of a humpback whale in Maui. The sea mammal seemed to be in need of help, as it looked extremely weak and four sharks were after it too.
The humpback whale was spotted from a helicopter, and the incident was reported to the Large Whale Response Network and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The footage helped researchers determine that the mammal in question was a humpback whale adult, and it seemed injured, its skin color was unusually light, it had parasites (cyamid amphipods – whale lice), and it seemed extremely exhausted. On top of it all, the animal was chased by no less than four sharks.
Specialists still don’t know what caused the animal to be in this condition. The humpback whale didn’t show any sign of having been in contact with fishing nets or having been hit by large sized ships. Researchers are trying to figure out the reason of its condition and to track the animal in order to assist it. Official Greg Kaufman from the Pacific Whale Foundation commented on the situation:
“It could be sick, starving or suffering from an internal blunt trauma injury. Whale lice are naturally occurring on humpback whales but tend to proliferate when a whale becomes weak or sick. It’s akin to death by a thousand bites.”
Another reason why researchers are concerned is that humpback whales don’t use to come to Maui and the Hawaiian Islands until autumn, generally in late September and October. Here is where they come to mate and raise their calves. The sight of a humpback whale around the coast at this time of year, before their specific season, is something rare and concerning for specialists.
Humpback whales are known in the animal world as defenders of small creatures against the attacks their aggressive relatives, killer whales (also called orcas). Several cases of humpback whales protecting seals or sunfish have been reported and studied throughout the years. They are one of the few species who dare to fight orcas and actually manage to keep them away. Their protective behavior can be explained by the fact that humpback whales use to defend their calves against orcas, so they react similarly whenever they perceive attack sounds from predators.
It seems like now humpback whales are in need of our help too.
Image courtesy of: Wikipedia