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  • Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga | 2011 Season Part 7
    surface At this stage I m confident that Tahafa will make it through the season and head south with his mother He s not completely clear of the woods though The large chunk taken out of the anterior portion of his dorsal fin hasn t entirely healed over It looks as if some flesh is still exposed viewed from the side the base of Tahafa s dorsal fin seems to have some tearing If you compare the photos below to the image I posted in Part 3 though you ll see that the wound appears much better than before so at least there has been visible healing progress Tahafa s wounds are mostly healed except his dorsal fin which still has areas of exposed flesh There has been some discussion speculation about what may have been responsible for these wounds with theories spanning tiger shark attack run in with a boat and ambush by a group of marine mammals Bear with me for a little longer and I think I can set out a strong case for marine mammal attack based on a series of images showing similar wounds on three other baby humpback whales I ve ID ed this season and also upon information input from a couple of fellow photographers The Case for Marine Mammal Attack Let s start with the latest calf I ve ID ed a female named Fafa 44 which we came across on 22 September Fafa and mother were not accompanied by an escort Though not quite as extensive as Tahafa s wounds Fafa s injuries were apparent from the moment I saw her This calf was covered with small circular and semi circular wounds identical to those on Tahafa Also like Tahafa Fafa had multiple wounds distributed all over her body as opposed to a single wound or wounds concentrated in one place Humpback whale calf Fafa 44 female re entering the water after breaching Note the wounds all over her body Particularly egregious was an injury to the calf s fluke with a chunk taken out resulting in a tear to her right fluke Large chunk missing from humpback whale calf Fafa s 44 female fluke Upon closer inspection of underwater photographs there are marks that look like an impression left by a bite mark sort of like what happens when you go to the dentist and he she takes an impression of your teeth The bite marks are all small suggestive of a relatively small mouth These marks on Fafa s mouth look to be impressions left by the upper and lower jaw of whatever animal attacked this calf Fortunately Fafa seemed unfazed by whatever trauma had befallen her as the calf was playful and brimming with positive energy My encounter with Fafa got me thinking about another calf I had seen much earlier this season Fitu calf 7 photographed on 18 August I posted a picture of Fitu back in Part 2 when I noted the unusual clover like marking

    Original URL path: http://www.tonywublog.com/journal/swimming-with-humpback-whales-in-tonga-2011-part-7 (2016-04-26)
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  • Open Edition Prints
    Profile About Me Photos for Sale Photos for Free Integrity Policy Contact Me Tony Wu Photo Naturalist ars gratia scientiae Open Edition Prints Please select the print size you would like from the drop down menu on the order form for your selected image Prices indicated are for hand prepared signed prints using a photographic process with Fuji Crystal Archive paper exclusive of shipping and handling Please provide your complete

    Original URL path: http://www.tonywublog.com/prints/open-edition (2016-04-26)
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  • Whales as Ecosystem Engineers | Whale Feces
    Smith Daniel Costa James McCarthy JB Nation Stephen Nicol Andrew Pershing and Victor Smetacek The paper pulls together decades of research and observations relating to the role that the great whales play in the health of ocean ecosystems and by extension the environmental balance of the entire planet In brief the authors argue that recovery of great whale populations in recent decades subsequent to the cessation of widespread commercial whaling has helped to buffer marine ecosystems from destabilizing stresses and that continued recovery of whale activity could lead to higher rates of productivity in locations where whales aggregate to feed and give birth The team of researchers propose several mechanisms to illustrate why this is the case but the one that s most dear to my heart is the discussion of whale poop To quote from the paper s summary Whales facilitate the transfer of nutrients by releasing fecal plumes near the surface after feeding at depth and by moving nutrients from highly productive high latitude feeding areas to low latitude calving areas The team included one of my photos in the paper to help illustrate this point In other words whales eat stuff down deep and poop at the

    Original URL path: http://www.tonywublog.com/journal/importance-of-whale-feces-to-environment (2016-04-26)
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  • Documenting Female Humpback Whale with Five Calves | Vava'u, Tonga
    seasons 2002 2005 2008 2009 and 2012 Yes she s a 5x mommy The last time I wrote about her was in December 2012 when I ID ed her with a baby after watching a NatGeo documentary while I was staying at my friend Ron s house in Palau read blog post Yup as head smacking preposterous as it might sound I recognised her on TV It s actually not too difficult because the markings on her body are easy to remember stripe with a dot There s a slight difference between the left and right sides of her body but basically both sides have the stripe with a dot pattern which isn t all that common among the whales that visit Vava u Which brings me to the point of this post If you find yourself in Vava u later this year or in future seasons please keep an eye out for this female If you see her please take photos and let me know Irrespective of whether she has a baby at the time or not it ll be interesting to record additional sightings Several people have contributed photos and information to date to help establish the baby timeline for this female Nonie Silver Karen Stone Kirsty Bowe Michele Hall Thank you Here is a PDF summary of confirmed sightings to date about 1MB Female humpback whale with multiple calves in Vava u Tonga Please excuse the amateurish formatting I m a bit too overwhelmed with work at the moment to worry about making the file pretty A bit of speculation The female humpback seems to be on a 3 year cycle with the exception of 2008 2009 when she had babies two years in a row I ve documented another female that had babies in 2008 and

    Original URL path: http://www.tonywublog.com/journal/female-humpback-whale-documented-with-five-different-calves-tonga (2016-04-26)
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  • Humpback Whale Female with Six Calves in Fifteen Years
    Super Mommy I am beside myself with excitement Claudia Jocher whom I ve never met just sent me a couple of photos including this one that she took in 1999 waaaaay back in the days of film cameras egads This makes six confirmed babies for this female humpback whale This is the same humpback that I highlighted in a post last month see previous post the female that I previously recognised on TV I was already ecstatic that I had confirmed her with five calves in Tonga This contribution from Claudia now brings the total to six over a period of 15 years 1999 2013 Also of interest Claudia sent me a photo of the same female in 1998 without a baby If you take a look at the chart in this updated PDF file about 1 4MB you ll see that she seems to be on a 3 year cycle with 2008 2009 being the exception My guess is that something bad happened to her baby in 2008 and she immediately mated again If she continues to follow this pattern she should be in Tonga again this year to mate Please keep an eye out for her take a

    Original URL path: http://www.tonywublog.com/journal/female-humpback-whale-documented-with-six-different-calves-tonga (2016-04-26)
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  • Record number of humpback whale babies in Tonga 2011
    mother calf pairs Over half of all mother calf pair encounters involved at least one escort which seems to be a relatively high ratio viz other humpback whale breeding and calving grounds We documented two long term associations between an escort and mother calf pair At least 14 days for 201114 Tahafa and at least 18 days for 201142 Faua This is the first time we have observed noticed this Such long term associations seem to be unusual or perhaps not well documented Of interest in both cases of long term escort association the mother calf pairs undertook the 40km journey between Vava u and Toku while in the company of their respective long term escorts We also documented three occasions when escorts with mother calf pairs were singing or vocalising in a song like manner 201114 Tahafa 201121 Uataha and 201130 Tolunoa We have come across this behaviour on multiple occasions in previous seasons as well There were two juveniles with all white pectoral fins the first we ve seen in the Vava u area They were 201127 Uafitu and 201142 Faua We documented several juvenile whales with injuries that suggest coordinated attack by a pod of marine mammals possibly false killer whales Pseudorca crassidens Overall there was an abundance of whales this season a lot of interesting social interaction and many opportunities to observe and record humpback whale behaviour This document focuses upon the mother calf pairs and associated whales For additional background information please refer to the following blog posts Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga 2011 Season Part 1 Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga 2011 Season Part 2 Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga 2011 Season Part 3 Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga 2011 Season Part 4 Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga 2011 Season Part 5 Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga 2011 Season Part 6 Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga 2011 Season Part 7 Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga 2011 Season Part 8 All of this work has been and is being done on our own time with our own resources We are not receiving financial or other assistance and we are not affiliated with any person or organisation involved with cetaceans If you have photographs of humpback whale mother calf pairs from the 2011 season in Vava u that are not included in this file or additional information about whales already included in this document please contact Tony Wu Reference documents 2008 Calf Summary 2009 Calf Summary 2010 Calf Summary Methodology Our basic methodology has remained unchanged since commencing this calf count project with our core ID team comprising Tony Wu Takaji Ochi and Emiko Miyazaki We recorded GPS locations for all sightings of humpback whale calfs upon initial visual and or radio confirmation We used Garmin GPS 60 and GPS 72H handheld units for marking GPS locations and converted to Google KML format using HoudahGPS When GPS units were not available we marked locations by hand on a map Where possible we entered the water to photograph mother calf pairs and other associated whales if any We made notes of behaviour easily recognisable physical traits and any other noteworthy circumstances For the first time we have recorded the number of escorts with each mother calf pair sighting for the purpose of tracking escort activity from this season onward When we were able to take photographs of sufficient quality and quantity to establish an ID we named and assigned a numerical ID to the relevant calf In those cases where we were unable to get sufficient photographs to establish ID we did not name the calfs We recorded the sightings as unknowns and cross checked any photos of such juveniles with subsequent ID ed whales to look for possible matches We have uploaded all the GPS and hand marked location data to Google Maps where the locations of all ID ed calfs and unidentified calfs are available for viewing GPS locations are also embedded as hyperlinks throughout this document when there is text that refers to date and location of sightings Clicking the hyperlinks will take you to Google Maps to view the relevant location The photographs contained in this document represent a small portion of the images we collected For most ID ed calfs we have many more images for verification purposes Observations Figure 1 below illustrates our cumulative calf counts over the past four seasons incorporating all ID ed juvenile whales each season including those contributed by third parties While we recognise that there are inherent differences in each season different periods of stay varying number of boat days weather variations etc the slope of the line representing cumulative calf count has appeared relatively similar across previous seasons With the addition of data for 2011 however a divergence in the slopes of the curves for 2009 and 2011 from those for 2008 and 2010 is apparent This makes intuitive sense against the backdrop of the number of calf encounters overall whale mood and other conditions in each season Cumulative count of humpback whale calf IDs in Tonga During our stay this season we had 73 encounters with 45 mother calf pairs that we identified over 76 boat days on the water compared with 22 calf IDs over 81 boat days in 2010 26 calf IDs over 59 boat days in 2009 16 calf IDs over 67 boat days in 2008 14 calf IDs over 53 boat days in 2007 This worked out to 0 59 Calf Boat day with a boat day being defined as a single day of approximately six hours on the water on a boat looking for whales These figures do not include calf IDs contributed by other people Humpback whale calf IDs per boat day in Tonga As is apparent from Figure 2 this season was exceptional with the Calf Boat day ratio significantly exceeding the levels recorded in each of the previous seasons In our 2010 summary we posited that a Calf

    Original URL path: http://www.tonywublog.com/journal/record-number-of-humpback-whale-babies-in-tonga-2011 (2016-04-26)
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  • What An Injured Humpback Whale Taught Me About Human Nature
    informed us that many of the expats had been trying to teach the locals about why turtle nets are a no no Slaughtering endangered sea turtles and ruining reefs was bad enough but now it was obvious that someone s turtle net had killed a humpback whale This of course was an unforgiveable transgression Person after person agreed and a bit of a mob mentality developed Emotions escalated Indignation permeated Within short order several people asked us to give them copies of our photos so that they could use the images to educate the locals Actually asked doesn t convey the correct connotation Demanded is more accurate There were of course some polite requests but one woman a person we hadn t previously spoke with in particular became quite agitated She insisted that we hand over our photos because well it was for a non profit cause Emphasising repeatedly that her demands were for a non profit purpose she produced a USB memory device and stuck it in one of my friend s faces saying Put the files on this in an emphatic tone Yes she stuck a memory device in his face and demanded that he give his photos to her That very instant Or else She pouted and stammered a few times to underscore how serious she was Given that we hadn t even had time to look at the images ourselves and were still trying to process what exactly we had witnessed I didn t think it appropriate to hand anything over and I particularly didn t think that we should be educating the locals quite just yet We declined the requests several times in a graceful manner until that particularly demanding woman became so obnoxious and unbearable that I set aside all pretence of polite social discourse and put an abrupt unambiguous stop to the insanity The audience dispersed In the ensuing days I had time to examine the photos closely I went out of my way to ask about turtle nets I tried in vain to set up a meeting to see an actual turtle net seems like they re not that common I showed fishermen both local and expat the photos and asked their opinions Eventually I concluded that the net was not a net It was a longline At 100 magnification the metal clips characteristic of longline fishing were obvious in many of the photographs The fishermen I consulted agreed This of course made much more sense Humpback whales travel long long distances in the open ocean Fishing fleets set longlines in the open ocean Villagers to the extent they use turtle nets wouldn t be using them in open ocean They would more likely use them in coastal waters The chances of a whale getting entangled in an industrial strength open ocean longline are much greater than in a handmade net set near the coast The Lessons Everyone was upset about the tragic pointless death of the whale Rightly so The people

    Original URL path: http://www.tonywublog.com/journal/story-about-an-injured-humpback-whale (2016-04-26)
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  • Possible Humpback Whale Feeding in Winter
    u Tonga General wisdom has it that humpback whales don t feed in the winter They do so in the summer in the southern hemisphere around Antarctica in the northern hemisphere in Arctic waters Humpback whale that looks like it is feeding Winter Sea of Cortez There is little doubt that humpback whales obtain most of their calories during the summer months but over the years I ve heard many stories and seen behaviour that I thought suggestive of what might best be termed opportunistic feeding by humpback whales during their winter breeding season around Tonga Last September s encounter was the most extended period of observation I ve had and also the one that I took the best notes for including challenging my meager Photoshop skills to draw a diagram of observed behaviour Since then I ve received some interesting bits of information to support the notion that humpbacks may in fact feed opportunistically during winter meaning they probably won t pass up a free easy meal if one comes their way in the non buffet season First Richard Sears who is one of the world s top blue whale researchers and founded the Mingan Island Cetacean Study let me know through a mutual friend that he has seen humpback whales feeding on many occasions during the northern hemisphere winter in the Sea of Cortez Michael Fishbach of the Great Whale Conservancy backed this up with a couple of photos he s taken of what appears to be humpback whales bubble netting and lunge feeding in the Sea of Cortez again during winter Bubble curtain from a humpback whale that might be feeding Winter Sea of Cortez Of course this still isn t proof positive but it sure gives me more confidence Finally a friend sent me a paper

    Original URL path: http://www.tonywublog.com/journal/humpback-whales-feeding-winter-sea-cortez-and-australia (2016-04-26)
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