The blue whale is the largest animal on Earth, even bigger than any dinosaur that ever existed. It lives in all the world’s oceans, except the Arctic. This graceful swimmer cruises the sea at 5 mph (8 km/h) and can accelerate to 20 mph (32 km/h) when agitated.
This magnificent marine mammal grows up to 100 feet (30 m), longer than two school buses. Weighing 400,000 pounds (180,000 kg), it is as heavy as 16 school buses. At birth, a blue whale weighs 6,000 pounds (2.700 kg) and is 25 feet (8 m) long. Eating only mother’s milk, it gains an impressive 200 pounds (90 kg) or 8 pounds (3.5 kg) an hour every day during the first year of life.
Despite its enormous size, a blue whale eats tiny shrimplike crustaceans called krill. Its stomach holds 2,000 pounds (900 kg) of krill. It eats 8,000 pounds (3,500 kg) – or 40 million krill each day!
To communicate, a blue whale emits a series of pulses, groans, and moans. Its calls are the loudest of any creature on Earth (188 decibels). In comparison, a jet engine reaches 140 decibels. A blue whale can hear another whale from 1,000 miles away. Scientists believe blue whales use these vocalizations to communicate and sonar-navigate the lightless ocean depths.
With a current population estimated between 10,000 – 25,000 individuals, these gentle giants are endangered.
Did you know?
• Scientists have discovered that blue whales are among the Earth’s longest-lived animals. Their average life span is estimated to be approximately 80 – 90 years, and the oldest recorded age of a blue whale is 110!
• Although they have few predators due to their size, a small number of blue whales will fall victim to attacks by pods of orcas and great white sharks each year.
Why are they listed as endangered?
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, aggressive whaling drove these magnificent creatures to the brink of extinction. It is thought that between 1900 and 1965, approximately 360,000 blue whales were slaughtered. The creation of the 1966 International Whaling Commission helped stem the tide and protected blue whales to a certain extent. Still, more conservation efforts are needed to ensure their protection for future generations.
What conservation efforts are being made?
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) develops policies to protect blue whales and works in conjunction with NGOs such as WWF to ensure stakeholders within fisheries understand the need for conservation. In addition, WWF uses satellite tags to map specific blue whales and identify areas of the oceans they use most often. This helps the IWC decide on areas to protect which limits the risk posed to whales from marine debris and bycatch.
Why are they beneficial to the environment?
Blue whales play a vital role in the preservation of the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Marine biologists have recently discovered that whales capture tons of carbon from the atmosphere, a service they believe to have a monetary value of US $1 trillion. Collectively, we must do all that we can to preserve the ecosystem and protect the environment, and blue whales play a vital role in our fight against climate change.
What can we do?
One of the best ways to contribute to blue whales’ protection is to support charities working tirelessly for their preservation. You can adopt a blue whale through WWF. For your donation you will receive a certificate recognizing your contribution to whale conservation. Your donation will go a long way to preserving these magnificent creatures for future generations.
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Did You Know?
In the 1960s, a mere 500 bald eagles could be found soaring across America’s lower 48 states. Dangerous pesticides and chemicals released into bald eagle habitats thinned their eggs’ shells, preventing successful hatching. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act’s captive breeding programs, habitat protection, and a ban on DDT (a chemical used to kill insects), numbers have rebounded to more than 7,000 breeding pairs. American citizens, businesses, scientists, and the U.S. government came together to protect bald eagles.