Whale birth a long time coming

A SOUTHERN right whale is thought to have given birth right here on the Coffs Coast, in what scientists say is the species’ first known calving in NSW waters for 13 years.

The calf, which is believed to be only about a day old, has been spotted off Valla Beach by National Parks and Wildlife rangers.

“It’s a pretty rare event in NSW waters,” said National Parks ranger and whale researcher Geoff Ross.

“It’s the first one we know of in (more than) 12 years.”

Earlier this year two unusually large southern rights were observed off the coast of Sydney and according to Mr Ross, one of them would have undoubtedly been the pregnant female.

“I’m glad I didn’t know the female was a pregnant female or I would have felt like an expectant father.”

He said southern rights usually gave birth further south around the Great Australian Bight but it was not unheard of for them to calve off the NSW North Coast, with births even recorded in and around Sydney.

“What we might be seeing here is a re-exploration of those traditional calving grounds in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania,” he said.

Mr Ross says rangers could tell the calf was a newborn because it was still creased from its position in the uterus.

“We can tell a newly-born calf as they have creases on their tail which is folded when it’s inside the uterus. This young calf looked all prune-like.”

He said the calf’s birth was a sign whale conservation efforts in the area were having a positive impact on the population.

“It shows how safe they feel in those protected areas.

“It’s great to see that they are recovering after such a long period of slaughter.”

Whale-watchers may be able to spot the pair as they head south and the mother will try to keep her calf close to shore.

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