Coast KZN

15 Sep 2016

Conservation project promises whale of a time

Mercury Reporter


A humpback whale breaches off the KwaZulu-Natal coast. The reason for this behaviour is not fully understood, although researchers suggest it could be related to communication, competition between males for mating, the removal of dead skin or simply for fun.

It’s “Whale Time!” This is the title of a new project to encourage members of the public to monitor and photograph the annual whale migration along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Participants are being urged to submit photographs of any sightings they make from the shore or at sea, along with GPS co-ordinates.

Wildlands Trust project manager Mark Gerrard said photographs would help researchers build up a photo-identification catalogue of individual whales so that researchers in other parts of the world could also track population levels and movements.

The two main species to be monitored off KZN are the humpback whale and Southern Right Whale. Humpback whales can be seen in local waters during June/July, travelling northward to warmer tropical waters to breed and calve, as well as in October/ November when they travel southward to return to their feeding grounds in Antarctica with newborn calves.

Southern Right whales are also a migratory species, with their summer feeding grounds in the Sub-Antarctic waters. They move north to warmer waters in the winter to breed and can be seen mainly in the Cape region, with some migrating as far north as KwaZulu-Natal.

Both species were hunted relentlessly and were still considered endangered until a few decades ago. However, the species recovered considerably after the International Whaling Commission’s decision to ban whaling in the southern hemisphere by 1986, as well as the South African government’s more recent decision to restrict boats from approaching whales at close quarters.

According to the Whale Time website, the humpback whale population that migrates past Durban had increased from a mere 340 individuals a few decades ago to nearly 7 000 today. The number of Southern Right whales off the South African coast is thought to have increased from about 100 in the 1970s to 1 000.

Whale Time is supported by the Wildlands Trust, Grindrod Bank, The Blue Fund and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. For more details, visit


Online Article