Just two days after the world-famous Australian Migaloo – white humpback whale, was spotted in Cook Strait-New Zealand, yesterday a baby humpback whale was also spotted in the same waters and is the only second calf that has ever been spotted in New Zealand waters.
What the Department of Conservation’s whale research team describe as an ‘exciting encounter’ was the observation of the baby humpback and its mother cruising in the waters of Cook Strait, which lies between the North and South islands of New Zealand.
The annual DoC Cook Strait Whale Survey is always conducted during the time these whales migrate from the Antarctic to South Pacific breeding grounds. The first time they spotted a newborn humpback whale was in July 2010.
Peter Harrison from the Southern Cross University in Townsville SCU, states that the Cook Strait route is a well-known path for humpback whales when they migrate from Antarctica to join the East Australian whales.
Survey leader Nadine Bott said that seeing the newborn humpback was a special treat for everyone on the team and they were equally thrilled by the encounter.
“We marvelled at how lucky we were to witness such a miracle as a newborn whale. We hope it travels safely to warmer waters,” Nadine Bott
This sighting has come just two days after Migaloo, the white whale was seen along with other more common dark-coloured humpbacks. Migaloo is usually spotted in Australian waters.
Ms. Bott added that the two baby humpbacks spotted were most likely born premature in the waters. Former whale experts who worked on the whale survey have stated that they have never seen a newborn calf in their time.
Observation made the survey team stated that the mother humpback was very small and this calf is most likely her first-born. The faint foetal folds on the calf, which was about 3-4 meters long, made the researchers believe that it is just several days to a week old at most, but they could not be certain.
The highest record in its 12 years of existence, the annual whale survey, a DoC partnership with OMV New Zealand, has so far spotted 136 humpback whales and still has three days left to complete it’s four week survey. The previous highest record was 106 humpbacks spotted in 2012.
The survey’s goal are to assess humpback whale recovery since commercial whaling ended in New Zealand in 1964, and also aims to estimate the size of the humpback population in New Zealand waters.
The higher number of humpback whales being seen indicates their New Zealand population is “bouncing back”, Ms Bott said.