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Facts & Figures About Whales

The Southern Right Whale is a large stocky whale. It's skin is usually black to dark grey with white and/or brown patches. They reach a maximum length of about 17m and weight of approximately 40 tonnes.

It is the only large whale that lacks a dorsal fin. It has short blunt paddle-shaped flippers and the broad head carries a number of white callosities (raised rough patches of skin) that form individual identifiable pattern. Whales breathe air at the surface of the water through 2 blowholes located near the top of the head.

Southern Rights are seasonal filter feeders, using their finely meshed long narrow plates to catch their prey, usually copepods or krill. They have about 200-270 pairs of black baleen plates hanging from the jaws. These whales must consume vast quantities of plankton in the southern oceans - it is estimated that between 600 and 1 600 kg of food might be needed daily during the feeding period to meet the whale's year-round energy requirements. Right whales spend three times longer playing and bonding with their young than searching for food, some going through a full migratory season without feeding.

Whales in coastal waters produce a variety of low frequency sounds used for communication. Whale watchers can hear these moans, moos and growls from the cliffs of Walker Bay. Right whales may have a life expectancy of over 60 years, although this figure is not at all certain (very little is known about these whales).

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