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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onWild­life → White wha­le (Belu­ga)

White whale (Beluga) (Delphinapterus leucas)

White wha­les, Hor­sund

White whale (Beluga)

Descrip­ti­on: The White wha­le, often cal­led Belu­ga, is a medi­um-sized toot­hed wha­le. Bulls can reach four and a half metres in length and 1,500 kg weight; cows are slight­ly smal­ler. They can­not be con­fu­sed with any other wha­le becau­se of their crea­my-white colour, alt­hough they are grey during their first years. White wha­les tend to stay in groups of 20 or more ani­mals.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / Migra­ti­on: Many dif­fe­rent are­as around the North Pole have a White wha­le popu­la­ti­on. They can be found in coas­tal waters any­whe­re in Sval­bard, often in fjords near gla­cier fronts. The size of the regio­nal popu­la­ti­on is not known, but they are among the more com­mon wha­les in Sval­bard. Bulls and cows seem to stay in sepa­ra­te herds, but indi­vi­du­als may be fle­xi­ble with regards to their bonds to a spe­ci­fic group. Their bio­lo­gy, inclu­ding migra­ti­on pat­terns, is still lar­ge­ly unknown, but they seem to spend the win­ter in are­as with drift ice.

Bio­lo­gy: White wha­les are slow swim­mers, but dive down to depths of 1,000 metres and have some­thing like echo loca­ti­on to find food and for ori­en­ta­ti­on. They feed on a ran­ge of spe­ci­es: fish, squid and, in other regi­ons, sal­mon. Mating is in spring (April-May); the cows give birth bet­ween May and August of the fol­lowing year. They may reach 40 years in age, being pre­da­ted on by Polar bears and Orcas.

Mis­cel­la­ne­ous: White wha­les have been hun­ted in Sval­bard for cen­tu­ries into the 1960s by Pomors and then by Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers. Now they are pro­tec­ted in Sval­bard waters, but still hun­ted in Cana­da and Green­land. The regio­nal popu­la­ti­on seems to be slow­ly incre­a­sing.

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last modification: 2019-02-02 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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