Biggest Threats To Endangered Right Whales

The death of a young right whale off Florida drives home the point that while disentanglement responses give the animals a better chance at survival, prevention of entanglements in fishing gear is paramount.
On February 3, NOAA scientist Barb Zoodsma joined partners from numerous state and local agencies, along with researchers from academic institutions and nonprofits organizations, to perform a necropsy – animal autopsy – on a young right whale. The animal was observed floating dead off St Augustine, FL, by an aerial survey team from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission two days earlier, and was towed to shore for examination. 

Scientists were already familiar with this animal. First sighted entangled with fishing rope on Christmas Day, this two-year old female whale had been the focus of much attention since the new year. In two separate disentanglement attempts December 30, 2010 and January 15, 2011, more than 200 feet of rope had been removed from this critically entangled species. Unfortunately, as scientists would learn, these unprecedented response efforts were not enough to save its life

Led by necropsy team leader, William McLellan of University of North Carolina Wilmington, and assisted by Dr. Michael Moore, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Alex Costidis, University of Florida, scientists examined this 31 foot, 15,000 pound whale for clues to its demise. Numerous lesions from its long term entanglement and shark bites were examined thoroughly, and tissue samples from the wounds will be shipped to labs for further study. The final results of the necropsy will depend on these analyses and will not be available for some time.
Initial observations lead researchers to conclude this whale had been entangled for months.  Parts of the rope that could not be removed during the disentanglement efforts were found to be embedded in the whale’s mouth, possibly impeding it from feeding. The young female was significantly underweight.

Weakened and injured by the long entanglement, she was easier prey for sharks.  Bite marks on the carcass suggest that scavenging sharks may have finished off the wounded whale by severing major veins at the base of the tail.

Animals Endangered Elusives

Pandas are an endangered species that are native to China, and their scientific name is ‘ailuropoda melanoleuca’.

Population estimates vary but there may be around 1000 pandas left living in the wild, in addition to about 127 in captivity in zoos in China, the United States, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and North Korea. Pandas used to range throughout southern and eastern China, Myanmar and north Vietnam. Now they are found only in a small part of China.

Giant pandas live in broad leaf and coniferous forests with dense bamboo growth, at elevations between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. Torrential rains or dense mist throughout the year characteristics these forests, often shrouded in heavy clouds.

Giant pandas may live to be up to 30 years old in captivity and in the wild they have a lifespan of around 20 years. A giant panda cub weighs only around 150 grams (5oz) at birth. Adult males can weigh up to 150kg (330lb). Despite their size, they are good climbers.

Pandas mostly eat bamboo and can eat as much as 10kg (22lb) of bamboo a day and they have to eat a lot to stay healthy — up to 15 percent of their body weight in 12 hours!

Pandas’ teeth are designed for much crushing and chewing, so the molars are very broad and flat. To get the bamboo to their mouths, they hold the stems with their front paws, which have enlarged wrist bones that act as thumbs for gripping.

Occasionally, they eat other vegetation, fish or small animals.

Only a few species of bamboo grow at the high altitudes where pandas live today. Pandas are rather shy and shun away from places where there are people, so while giant pandas used to easily move from one mountain top to another in search of food, now they find it difficult as their habitat is inhabited by people.

As forests are being cut down and development takes place, the home of the panda is starting to shrink and once the amount of bamboo in their habitat starts to decline, these endangered creatures need to find new places with enough to fulfill their naturally large appetite. But the sad part is that they are not able to do so and are now considered as endangered species.

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