This Week in Whales, 8/26/11

News in the world of whales this week (or close to this week)

  • Wild beluga whales caught in Russia to be sent to Hong Kong, China for entertainment.  When you are done riding “The Dragon” roller coaster or “The Rapids” whitewater-rafting ride at Ocean Park (“Hong Kong, China’s premier theme park!”) you may soon be able to stroll over and gaze at six near-threatened beluga whales.  The wild beluga whales were captured in Russia and have been in a holding facility for about a year, waiting to be flown to Hong Kong, China as soon as Ocean Park finishes constructing their prison “giant tank.”  Apparently, Ocean Park’s Chairman, Allan Zeman, has not made a final decision on importing the belugas from Russia.  Hopefully Mr. Zeman will do the right thing and ask Russia to return these whales to the wild.
  • You can love your cousin, you just can’t love your cousin…unless you are a killer whale and there are not many choices to keep the species going.  Turns out that the endangered Southern Resident killer whale has a problem with inbreeding.  Unfortunately, the small size of the pods that make up the southern population (the population famous for inhabiting Puget Sound) may limit available mate choice.  According to recent research appearing in the Journal of Heredity (Inferred Paternity and Male Reproductive Success in a Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Population, “in the absence of gene flow from other populations, the southern population may be at significant risk of genetic deterioration from inbreeding, accumulation of deleterious mutations, and lack of adaptive variation.”  Yikes!

Meanwhile, this week in Wales…

Worlds still colliding this week as more fin whales return to Wales.  Pods of fin whales are swimming to waters off Pembrokeshire each year in larger numbers.  According to Cliff Benson of Sea Trust, “In the past we had seen one or two, and back in 2005 a group of four, but they now seem to be arriving in much greater numbers.”

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