This week National Geographic published an interview with Ocean Alliance Right Whale Program Director Vicky Rowntree about her study looking into the high numbers of southern right whale calf deaths in the last decade.
During the annual field seasons at our Whale Camp at Peninsula Valdes in Argentina Vicky and her team from the Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas have investigated possible causes of death for the calves of these endangered great whales. One of the factors that seems to be unique to this region is the attacks of kelp gulls on the calves. The gulls rip chunks of skin off with their beaks while the calves are resting, leaving open lesions that are slow to heal due to the constant harassment. Rowntree will continue to monitor the gulls and other threats to this population of right whales in the 44th season of the Right Whale Program next fall. You can read her interview with National Geographic here.