So You Want To Know All About Whales, Do You?
Well, here is the scientific breakdown of whales (don’t worry, it’s not too scientific!). Whales are grouped in the Order Cetacea and within this Order, there are two suborders called Odontoceti and Mysticeti which possess not only whales but dolphins and porpoises too. Let’s be honest, when we think of whales we think of dolphins so after. Mysticetes are filter feeders who strain small plankton (their plankton of choice is called krill through their baleen. The species in this suborder include blue whales, humpback whales, gray whales, bowhead whales, and minke whales among others. The Odontocetes are have teeth instead of baleens which are used to catch fish and other mammals. The species in this suborder include sperm whales, orcas (we used to call them killer whales but we don’t call them that anymore because it makes them seem vicious), pilot whales, and beluga whales.
The Human Connection to Whales
Perhaps it’s because they are fellow mammals as we humans have a special connection with whales. They are mysterious animals that are massive in size yet gentle in nature and travel thousands of kilometers within a year to breed or feed. Our connection to whales is the motivation behind protecting these gentle giants. Education programs in schools and aquariums are established across the world in scientific and story-telling formats. There is an entire tourism industry that relies on whale watching in many coastal areas at various times of the year. People flock from all over to catch a glimpse of any and all whales, dolphins, and porpoises. However, whales are in need of our protection more than ever!
Protect the Gentle Giants of the Sea
Two seasonal instances involving the hunting of whales really brought the plight of whales and other Cetaceans to the fore front of the media’s attention. Firstly, a documentary released in 2009 called The Cove exposed the dealings of a small fishing community in Taiji, Japan, which cornered dolphins into a small cove (hence the name of the film) and after setting aside some dolphins for sale into the aquarium industry, slaughtered the rest to sell to the markets as food and other products. Secondly, a show on the Discovery Channel called Whale Wars documented the efforts of a radical conservation organization called the Sea Sheppard Conservation Society. Volunteers from all over the world jumped on boats to stop the efforts of Japanese whaling ships by positioning their boats between whales and the Japanese hunters or even ramming the Japanese ships to scare them off. Many viewers of these documentaries have taken the call and supported them through spreading awareness of the issues or volunteered with various organizations to stop these actions.
There are many organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting these marine mammals as many of them are threatened or endangered. Constant awareness building and increasing efforts to apply pressure to governments to act to increase protection of whales will be crucial to the survival of all whales.
Below are a few links to help learn more about whales in the world.