MAKING A SPLASH: SPERM WHALES & MANATEES IN ABACO WATERS
After a quiet spell on the cetacean and sirenian front, there is exciting news to report. First, the BMMRO encountered two sperm whales just off Sandy Point. I don’t know how close to the shore they actually were, but it was very friendly of them to come so near to the BMMRO HQ.
When whales are sighted from the research vessel, one of the tasks is to collect feces. This job is often undertaken by interns, and is a good way to learn that serious research may well involve unattractive work… They practise with… er… coffee grounds and a net. For more on this important yet unappealing aspect of whale research, CLICK NICE TO SEE FAMILIAR FECES. Another essential part of any sighting is to take fluke photos to enable ID. Every whale has different and distinctive patterning to the fluke, including general wear and tear. As a photo archive is built up, the researchers are able to recognise a particular whale and cross-reference it with previous sightings.
The third task of a sighting is to record clicks made by an individual whale. This enables an estimate of the whale’s size to be made, and again a sound archive is gradually built up from which comparisons can be made.
A NEW MANATEE VISITS MARSH HABOUR
FRIENDS OF THE ENVIRONMENT has just reported the sighting of a new manatee at the head of Marsh Harbour harbour. I’m not aware of any other sightings in the last couple of days, but as they say, “Please keep your eyes out and drive carefully! Contact Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization with any further sighting reports by calling 357-6666. You can also share photos with them on Facebook. Also, please do not feed the manatee. They are able to find their own food and anything else may make them unhealthy”.
This is Abaco’s third recent manatee. First there was GEORGIE, who as far as I know is still comfortably settled in the Cherokee area. Then RANDY arrived earlier this and got to within about a few miles of Georgie… High hopes of a meeting – and ‘friendship, maybe more’ – were dashed when Randy turned round and headed back to Castaway Cay. Let’s hope this newcomer stays around. I wonder what he – or she – will be named? My suggestion is Abby or Abi, which I think is unisex…
Just as with the whale flukes, the tail of a manatee is an important means of identification. The new manatee’s tail has its own distinctive edge pattern, which will enable its future recognition. Here is an image of Randy’s tail, with its unique notch.
Credits: BMMRO & FOTE with thanks as ever for use permissions