BLOG 5 – September 25, 2013 in Puerto Madryn
On September 25, 2002, a juvenile southern right whale got entangled in the anchor chains of a whale-watching boat in Puerto Pirámide. The guides and local divers were the first to attempt to free the young whale. It was impossible to cut the chains under the water, so they made a decision: to tow the whale to shore, strand it intentionally and release it from the chains. Thanks to the effort made by many people, the whale was freed from the chains and maintained fresh until the high tide. When the evening came, the young whale swam back to sea, and its story made the headlines in many communication media. Because of the striking scratch-shaped white patch on his back, the whole community named him “Garra” (“Paw”).
I first observed Garra in August 2001 in Golfo San José when it was a very young calf, and then again during the aerial survey that I did in October 2001 as part of my Ph.D. research project on the behavior and social development of southern right whales. Thanks to this survey, we learned that Garra’s mom is whale #200 in our photo-identification catalog.
To commemorate Garra’s rescue, September 25th was declared National Whale Day in Argentina. During the 2004 celebrations, the people of Puerto Pirámides proposed 59 names to give to Garra’s mother. By unanimous vote, Garra’s mom was named Victoria. Our right whale catalog, that Roger Payne started in 1971, has been maintained and updated since the 1980’s by Vicky Rowntree, Director of the Right Whale Program conducted jointly by the Ocean Alliance and the Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas in Argentina. Therefore the name of whale # 200 is a tribute to our dear Vicky, a researcher who has dedicated her life to the study and photo-identification of hundreds of right whales of this population.
Today, the Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas opened the educational exhibit Researching to Conserve the Right Whale at the Museum of Natural Sciences and Oceanography in Puerto Madryn. Happy Whale Day!
By Mariano Sironi, Director of Southern Right Whale Program