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About Humpback Whales
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PO Box 10205
SOUTH AFRICA (Head Office):
Tel: +(27) 11 425 1169
Fax: +(27) 86 553 9093
Cell: +(27) 72 827 7158
Humpback whales migrating from their summer feeding grounds in the Antartic, arrive at St Marie Island yearly in July and stay
around these waters till the first week in October to mate and give birth. During the summer months they feed in the more nutrient
rich waters of the polar regions but they have to move to the more wamer tropical waters in the winter months to calf. The reason
for that is the calves with not enough insulating blabber cannot survive the colder polar waters. it takes one and a half months
for the whales to travel from the South Pole and they loose up to 33% of their bodyweight during the 4800km jourmey. The gestation
period of 11 to 12 months are closely linked to the timing of their annual migration. Those that have mated the previous year will
come back this year to give birth at the tropical watrers around St Marie
The whales arrive during the first week of July and
most are still in their migration process to the shallow and safe waters of the Bay of Antogil 160km north of St Marie
the cows will give birth. After giving birth they will start moving south and many cows with calves can be observed lingering betweenSt Marie
and the mainland of Madagascar
often in very close viewing of the shore.
Males competing for females that haven't
calved often indulge in spectacular forcefull displays of breaching, head lunging and slapping to create explotions of water to intimidate
Humpback whales often entertain the visitor with breathtaking displays of breaching (jumping completely out
of the water ), tail slapping and flipper slapping while swimming on their backs. These behaviours are important ways of communicating
between Humpback whales.
Humpback whales are also renowned for their singing abilities and the male produces one of the most
complex songs in the entire animal kingdom. La Petite Traversee's
whale watching boat is equipped with a underwater microphone
to enable their guests to listen to the whales singing. Only males sing and all the males in the same region sing the same song. The
song itself changes over time and generally occur during the breeding season. The sound frequencies that whales use are between 30
hertz ( humans can only hear from 100 hertz upwards ) and 8 khz, therefor humans can only hear part of the whale song. A typical song
lasts from 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated continuously for hours at a time.
Humpback whales have been protected since 1966
and their numbers are slowly recovering. At the moment it is estimated there are about 35 000 to 40 000 worldwide, 33% of their original
population. In the 19th century they were nearly hunted to extinction by the Soviets.
At La Petite Traversee
during the months
July to first week in October, the priviliege to view these magnifiscent creatures gives the visitor and us a fantastic
offshore bonus and thats why the waters around St Marie
are rated as one of the worlds best Humpback whale viewing sites.
A Humpback Whale in full action
A Humpback Whale breaching
Side Flipper Slapping
Humpback Whales Fact Sheet
Mating & Breeding
Distribution & Migration
Black upper side and white on under side
Adult males between 12 to 18 meters
Between 22 680 to 36 287kg
Swimming on back while flipper slapping
Flippers up to 4m in length and tail up to 5.5m wide
on small shrimp like creatures and eat up to 1361kg per day. Only feed during summer months.
maturity at 6 to 10 years or when males reach 11.6m and females 12m. Females bear a calf every 2 to 3 years and gestation period is
about 12 months.
Calf is between 3 and 4.5m long and weighs up to 907kg at birth. Can drink up to 500 liters of milk with a very high fat content
per day. Calf is weaned at the age of one year.
Most Humpback whales follow a regular migration route, summering in the polar waters for feeding, wintering in the tropical waters
for mating and calving.
Between 45 and 50 years although some researchers claim up to 70 years.