Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Friday, November 11, 2011

'Escort' Humpback Whales

One of the most amazing creatures we see in Kenya is the migrating humpback whale. The humpback whale migrates along the Kenyan coast from late June through to December. In the past three months we have had 6 sightings of humpback whales with an average group size of 2.16, ranging from 1 to 4.
Humpback whale escort
A humpback whale 'escorts' a mother and calf
Some of these groups have been mothers and calves plus another adult whale. It is reported that "escort males" can accompany mothers and calves during their migration. It is thought that the male travels with the mother and calf with the intention of mating if the mother comes into post partrum oestrus. Occasionally another male humpback whale will join the group (becoming a secondary escort), challenging the principle escort for access to the female mother (termed the nuclear animal). The escort will defend the nuclear animal from other intruding males with behaviours including shoving, breaching and blowing bubble screens. This also acts as protection for the humpback whale calf.

It has also been known for escorts to be female, the reason for a female escort is currently unknown, though the escort may be related to the mother. This links to the sightings we have been having and might explain why a group of 3 adults and one calf have passed through the south of Kenya.