A (double!) newborn North Atlantic right whale spotting has given new "hope" to the species, of which there are about only 400 left in the world.
CNN reported on Sunday that two newborn calves were recently photographed in the Atlantic Ocean — the first off the coast of Cumberland Island, Georgia, and the second off the coast of Vilano Beach, Florida.
The Georgia newborn was spotted on Dec. 4 alongside its mama Chiminea, believed to be 13 years old. (The expected lifespan of a female North Atlantic right whale is about 45, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA].) Three days later, the second baby was spotted in Florida, alongside its mama Millipede, 16.
Blue World Research Institute (BWRI) Executive Director Jamison Smith, who used drones to get photos of the newborn whales, tells CNN, "With a population at such low levels, every individual counts, and it is great to see these two new calves at essentially the beginning of the calving season."
The species' calving season runs from mid-November through mid-April, according to CNN.
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"It gives us hope that there will be more over the next few months," Smith adds in his comments to CNN. "This species needs all the help they can get so that we might be able to show our grandkids a right whale in the future rather than just tell stories about them."
The uplifting news comes almost six months after NOAA "received a report of a deceased floating whale off the coast of Elberon, New Jersey." Upon further inspection, the organization confirmed that the deceased animal was a North Atlantic right whale.
"An unusual mortality event has been in effect for North Atlantic right whales since 2017, during which 31 whales have been found dead in U.S. and Canadian waters. (This whale is the 31st found dead.)," NOAA shared in their release about the death.
It marked the first observed right whale death of 2020, according to NOAA, but unfortunately not the first unexplained death of this endangered species.
Jessica Powell, a marine mammal biologist for NOAA, tells CNN that the North Atlantic right whale is "a species that is struggling and it's essentially all hands on deck to try and save these whales."
"We advise folks anywhere in the southeast to be really cautious when on the water during the calving season, to look out for calves, slow down around them and give them space," she added. "Whatever we can do to give these whales a fighting chance."
Extensive measures have been taken to protect the North Atlantic right whale, NBC New York reported in June, but the species is still vulnerable to ship strikes and net entanglements.
Of the around 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, only about one-quarter of those remaining whales are breeding females.
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