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Published on : Monday, July 6, 2015
A rare white humpback whale, one of only four ever reported, has been seen frolicking in the Cook Strait between New Zealand’s North and South islands, the Department of Conservation (DOC) confirmed Monday.
The whale was thought to be Migaloo, a white humpback that had been seen every year off eastern Australia since 1991, said DOC officials.
The whale was seen with another normal black humpback at the end of the DOC-organized Cook Strait Whale Survey, an annual four- week count of whales passing through channel.
“This is so unique. I have never seen anything like this in New Zealand,” marine mammal scientist Carlos Olavarria said in a DOC statement.
Survey Leader Nadine Bott said distinctive features on the whale like those on Migaloo, Australian Aboriginal for “white fellow,” strongly indicated it was the same whale.
A skin sample for DNA analysis was taken from the white whale on Sunday with a biopsy and would be compared with Migaloo’s DNA to confirm whether it was definitely the same whale.
The analysis would also identify whether the whale was albino or whether its whiteness was due to color variation.
“White humpbacks are extremely rare. Only four have been reported in the world,” Bott said in the statement.
“Migaloo is the most famous and another white humpback whale was spotted in Norway this year. Migaloo is thought to have fathered two white calves which have been making appearances along Australia’s eastern coast. One has been named MJ, short for Migaloo junior.”
The annual whale survey assesses humpback whale recovery since commercial whaling ended in 1964 and is timed for humpback whales’ northern migration to South Pacific breeding grounds.
The survey this year had a very high count of 122 humpback whales, surpassing its previous highest of tally of 106 in 2012.