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For whales, climate change has picked up where harpoons left off


For whales, climate change has picked up where harpoons left off

After commercial whaling stopped, populations recovered, but now global warming is threatening the animals

Senior features writer

New research in SA that southern right whales off its coast are getting thinner, having fewer calves and leaving these breeding grounds sooner provides further evidence for research conducted in the Americas that climate change shifts in the Southern Ocean could cause population decline.

Dr Els Vermeulen, research manager at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) whale unit (https://www.up.ac.za/whale-unit/article/2125017/research-projects), said: “Southern right whales are a sentinel species and, if climate change is affecting them, it is undoubtedly affecting other smaller species. They are an iconic animal and important to our country.”

Among the threats to the whales’ population, which was increasing until about 10 years ago, is ocean warming, which can harm their food supply, including krill...

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