Friday, November 10, 2006

Why do whales strand?

As a known whale hugger, I am often asked questions about whales (if you have any, please feel free to post them to me).

One that I have no good answer for is "Why do whales strand themselves on beaches?". No one really has a good answer to this. Could be an infection that affects their echolocation and leads to stranding. Could be loud radar noises that interfere with their navigating. Could be that one or many of the whales are sick and the whole pod strands. Or maybe the whales just want a margarita, so they head to the beach. There just hasn't been enough scientific research to really understand the cause of the strandings. And once we know the cause, we might be able to prevent the strandings somehow.

But, sadly, today marked the first pilot whale mass stranding of the summer season in New Zealand. Pilot whales tend to strand more often than other species and numerous strandings are reported each year up and down the New Zealand coast.

As a scientist, conservationist, and whale-hugger, I urge you to learn more about whales and contribute to research programs that study whales (such as The Whale Museum Research Program, The Center for Whale Research, The CRCC, the WWF, or the Animal Behavior Society's Cetacean Research Grant Program). With the governmental funding agencies being so tight with money lately, it is difficult to receive grants for research -- especially whale behavior research which probably will not cure cancer. Probably.

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