Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon
Guide ReportMarch 21-25By: Liisa Juuti
What an exciting week in the lagoon full of mothers with their curious and playful calves begging for attention. The representatives of CONANP (the National Commission for Protected Areas) do an official counting of the whales in the lagoon every week. They run the boat at a slightly higher speed than the whales swim, scanning through the entire lagoon and counting them by their blows. At the moment there are 131 whales in the lagoon; 57 cows with their calves and 17 males.
The calves are growing up fast! When born a couple of months back, the grays in this lagoon were around 4 meters (12 feet) long and weighted about 800 kg (1800 pounds). During the first months they drink 150 liters (50 gallons) of their mothers’ 53 % fat milk per day and can grow 80 kg (180 pounds) per day. Now they measure about 6-8 meters (18-24 feet). The gray whales are born with their tail first to avoid drowning. There is always another female, “midwife”, assisting the birth. The mothers wait until the calves are about the half of their total size before they start heading back to their feeding grounds in Alaska. I read that once the calves are a bit older, the mothers take them to the Southern parts of the lagoon where the current is stronger as to train them for the North-ward trip. It is estimated that only 50-70% of the calves make it to the North though, due to the deaths caused by the orcas.
One of my sisters just had a baby and so she asked me whether I think the mother whales feel the same bliss with their new born around as we humans do. When you see the calves resting on their mothers back, swimming in perfect synchrony or the mothers lifting their babies to get them closer to the boats, I don’t doubt the love bind between them at all! During the whaling period the gray whales were known to be the hardest whale to kill, defending their life and that of their babies to the end.