In Argentina, 626 southern right whale calves died. It’s possible there were many more. The numerous deaths all occurred at the Península Valdés, a calving ground where the whales go to give birth to their young.
Baby whales are an easy target for predators and in recent years attacks from gull have increased. The gulls swoop down and peck on the blubber and skin from the back of the whales, making for a tasty meal. The attacks are relentless and will continue on exacerbating old wounds and creating new ones. Scientists have said that these wounds can lead to dehydration, problems in regulating body temperature, and a loss of energy through additional energy ‘spent’ on healing the sores.
Attacks have only increased in the last 30 years and seem to have an effect on the whales emotional well being as tormented whales under threat will spend less time playing, nursing, and having a well needed rest. In the 1970’s the number of whales with wounds on their backs was only around 2% but this has increased dramatically to a staggering 99%. Scientists are unsure if the increase in calf deaths are due to the increase in gull attacks. It could certainly be a contributing factor. And it is unsure why the gulls are attacking the whales with such ferocity. But in this instance – it seems the gulls are winning.