Humpback Whale Calf's Nursing Moment Caught on Camera


| LAST UPDATE 07/07/2023

By Stanley Wickens
humpback whale nursing footage
Philip Thurston via Getty Images

In the depths of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Colombia, a fascinating natural phenomenon was recently caught on camera. A humpback whale calf, weighing in at an impressive 900 kilograms, was filmed breaking away from its mother after nursing, leaving a trail of milk dispersing into the ocean's abyss. The calf then ascends to the surface of the Gulf of Cupica for a breath of air, offering an unprecedented glimpse into the intimate moments between a humpback mother and her offspring.

This incredible scene, captured by the team at the Macuaticos Foundation, is a rarity of the highest order. According to biologist Natalia Botero, only two other instances of such feedings have ever been documented. "Despite decades of efforts by thousands of researchers, hours of work, collaborations, lactation recordings are extremely rare," Botero revealed during the video's first public presentation in Medellin last month. The significance of this footage extends beyond mere scientific curiosity; it also plays a crucial role in the conservation of these majestic creatures. "From a scientific point of view this is an important step, but also for conservation," Botero added. Capturing this extraordinary moment required some innovative technology. The team employed sensors, temporarily attached to the calf's back using gentle suction cups, which included a camera, GPS, and a device to record the sounds made by the whales.

Pacific Whale rare wildlife
Auscape / Contributor via Getty Images
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Each year, after feasting for several months in the waters off the Antarctic Peninsula and the Strait of Magellan in Chile, thousands of humpbacks undertake a grand migration to the tropical waters of the Pacific, stretching from Costa Rica to Peru, to breed. From June to November, the waters off Colombia become a haven for these colossal creatures, who can grow up to 17 meters long, weigh around 40 tons, and travel an astounding 8,500 kilometers every breeding season.

Despite being protected from commercial hunting, humpbacks still face numerous threats. However, the more we learn about their behavior, the better equipped we are to protect them. "By learning more about their behavior… we can promote appropriate conservation actions," said Botero. There is some good news on the horizon, though. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, humpback numbers are on the rise. This rare footage only underscores the importance of ongoing efforts to safeguard these magnificent animals and their oceanic home.

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