By Lauri deGaris
Right Whale #3360 – Horton – has given birth to her third calf off the coast of St. Catherines Island, Georgia, just south of the Savannah River. Horton is at least 21 years old. Her first known calf was born in 2007 and her second calf was born in 2010.
Since the birth of her last calf in 2010, Horton could have conceivably given birth to three additional calves. Female right whales have the potential to give birth every three years. Many factors can contribute to why she was unable to have a successful pregnancy for over a decade. As all mothers know, pregnancy and nursing require a lot of energy. And, stress from lack of nutrition, vessel strikes, entanglements, and toxins in the water all play a role in low reproduction rates among right whales.
Horton has experienced at least two entanglements since her last calf was born in 2010. Her tail bears the scars of her past. Her first two calves have been entangled many times as well. Her calf #4090, born in 2010 was severely entangled in 2011 at one year of age and was never seen again. Each calf born is vital to the survival of this species. It is estimated that only 70 reproductive females remain in the North Atlantic right whale population.
According to New England Aquarium, Horton’s name was inspired by Dr. Seuss’s book “Horton Hears a Who!” Horton’s son Truffula was named after the trees in “The Lorax.” Maybe her new calf will carry a Dr. Seuss theme name, too.
All living beings sing a song of emergence. And, on Dec. 7, 2023, a star-shattering new voice sang off St. Catherines Island. A new melody was introduced into the universe. Let us all sing with joy as new life has emerged from beneath the waves. Congratulations Horton, may your third calf live long and reproduce many. See a heart-warming photo of Horton and her calf.
Over the years, many mother and calf pairs have been sighted just off the beaches of Amelia Island. One quick and easy way to see if North Atlantic right whales are near our shores is use the interactive map found at Whalemap. This whale map was designed to communicate whale survey results for effective management practices. Data collected from acoustic buoys, aerial surveillance, and boat observations are uploaded daily and made public for all to use. Research teams from the United States and Canada collaborate, sharing data and strategies designed to protect the estimated 356 remaining North Atlantic right whales.
If you are lucky enough to spot a whale call 877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343) or call the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16. Please have the following information ready: location of whale(s); city, lat/long, nearby landmark; number of whales; direction traveling; are dolphins and birds present; your name and a call back number. Remember to remain at least 500 yards from right whales.