The Endangered – Beluga Whale

By Alison Stosser, Youth Manager

Georgia Aquarium by Frank
Georgia Aquarium by Frank

Whistles, squeals, moos, chirps, and clicks might not be the sounds that you think that a whale could make. However, one whale can make all of those sounds, the Beluga Whale. With their highly carnivorous diet and adorable, unique appearance, Beluga Whales are smart and interactive.

These smart and interactive Whales are cetaceans. However, unlike other cetaceans Belugas can move their head up, down, and side to side, because their cervical vertebrae are not fused. They also shed their outer layer of skin, or molt, each summer around July. The Belugas are a small, white-toothed whale that can weigh up to 3,300 pounds and can get as long as 16 feet. They are covered with a thick layer of blubber that accounts for as much as 40 percent of their body mass! This fat provides thermal protection and stores energy.

Why are they important: Like other whales, the Beluga Whale are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health and balance of the marine environment. Also, the Whales are culturally important to indigenous communities in the Arctic.

Why are they going extinct: The Beluga Whale is going extinct due to climate change. Like Polar Bears, the Beluga depends deeply on ice sheets to survive and climate change is causing the ice to melt. Additionally, the increase of oil and gas development also increases the amount of shipping in sensitive areas. The increased shipping means more noise that can mask sounds Beluga Whales and many other marine animals use to communicate with each other. The Beluga Whale depends on sound to communicate, so any interference by noise pollution can greatly affect their ability to find food and mates, navigate, avoid predators, and take care of their young.

How can we help:

  1. Do not buy any products, such as lip balm, that is made from Beluga blubber.
  2. Try to not drive your car very often to keep shipping in the Arctic down to decrease the amount of noise pollution. Carpooling is a great alternative!
  3. Limit the amount of greenhouse gases that you emit into the air to help slow down climate change.

 

Want more of The Endangered? Check out the growing list of articles on our Wildlife page.

 

Sources:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

World Wildlife Fund

 

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