The blue giant has returned home. After almost half a century of mysterious absence, it seems that the Antarctic blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), the largest known animal living on Earth, has returned to one of its ancient hunting grounds.
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In recent months, in fact, there have been sightings of several specimens that, since the beginning of the year, would have exceeded well over 50 whales, 58 to be precise, in the remote waters of South Georgia and the Southern Sandwich Islands.
To publish the results of the field study that was also based on the interception of whale calls, the British Antarctic Survey, with its dedicated research program, was among the protagonists of the expedition, together with the Swiss Polar Institute Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition, with the collaboration of the government of South Georgia. Why did they disappear and, above all, why did they come back?
Even if there are still no certain answers to the second question, for the first one everything is very clear. The blue whales were present in large numbers in those waters until hunting brought them to the brink of extinction. It is calculated that between 1904 and 1971 42,698 specimens were exterminated those areas alone.
Then, almost 50 years ago, the whales disappeared. Suddenly they had decided to leave the area, persecuted by poachers. When, in 1966, the IWC (International Whaling Commission) finally banned the hunting of these giants of the sea, sighting a blue whale was almost impossible.
In any case, from 1998 to 2018, only one specimen had been intercepted in the Atlantic Ocean. The data and the recordings made by researchers during the latest expeditions, sound like a real return home. "It is an exciting discovery and a decisive step for the conservation of the Antarctic blue whale," commented Jennifer Jackson, head of the scientific expedition.
The marine area affected by the return of the whales is now protected. “Hopefully," he stressed, “this is only the beginning” .
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The blue whale, the largest animal on the planet, has found its way home.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands