Thursday, January 22, 2009

The amazing things that arrive in the mail

I am always amazed when I go to the mail and find a letter from a child who has decided that instead of presents they want to help endangered right whales. Such was the case today with a 6 year old and her friends from Ottawa opting to symbolically adopt Calvin and Hobbes in lieu of a birthday present. I am hopeful we have a great generation in the making.

This is on a day when another six year old is fighting for his or her life, an entangled right whale off the coast of Georgia named Bridle #3311. This whale was born in 2003 to the now 22 year old right whale #1711 and as of yet the sex is unknown. The sex of a right whale can be determined through observation or by analysis of a small skin biopsy.

A team of volunteers are trying to remove tightly wrapped rope from fishing gear that is through the mouth, around the rostrum (the area on top of the whale's head in front of the blowholes, actually part of the upper lip since the nostrils have moved to the top of the head) and cutting into the lower lip on the left side. The left flipper is probably also wrapped in rope. A satellite buoy was attached to the trailing rope allowing this whale to be tracked at night and during bad weather making finding the whale faster and easier.

These entanglements can be life threatening, particularly when tightly wrapped and cutting through the skin. This leaves the whale's skin open to infection, can impair the whale's ability to feed and can lead to death.

It is hopeful that the disentanglement team will be able to remove enough of the rope to help release the pressure and eventually get all the rope off the whale. Unfortunately, unlike several other whale species, right whales are not often cooperative in these disentanglement efforts.

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