Is this the first southern right whale calf born in Algoa Bay?

Youngest calf sighted and suspected to be the first born in the bay in Addo Elephant National Park’s marine protected area.

When first sighted, it was apparent that the birth was very recent as the calf still had the evidence of fetal folds on its skin.  These are caused by the calf being “folded” up inside its mother’s womb.

The cow-calf pair were spotted close to the shore off Hougham Park, just north of St Croix Island. The cow-calf pairs are known to stay in this area because of the gently sloping shore profile providing less water movement. This allows them both to conserve energy, and for the calf to grow faster. The mother converts her blubber reserves into rich and nutritious milk. This milk contains 43% fat compared to the 3,3% that human milk contains. Whale milk has the consistency of toothpaste, which prevents it from being wasted while feeding under the water.

There is another good reason why the pair stays close inshore and communicates in whispers. This low volume of communication coupled with the breaking waves prevents detection by hunting orcas. Orcas would not hesitate to attack and drown the vulnerable calf, only to eat the tongue. It is expected that the calf will spend around two months in our waters before it is strong enough to undertake the long journey back to the feeding grounds in the southern oceans. The female also needs to judge her blubber reserves so that she has enough energy to reach her next food source.

Raggy Charters ran a competition to come up with a name for the calf and the name ONENZI was selected!