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Warning to stay away from rare ‘white’ southern right whale calf spotted off NSW coast


Authorities have issued a warning to keep away from a rare “white” whale calf spotted alongside its mother off the NSW coast.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service said four pairs of mother and calf southern right whales had been seen during winter, including the rare calf that looked white, somewhat resembling the famous humpback Migaloo.

“The calf appears to be white but is actually brindle,” NPWS marine wildlife team project officer Andrew Marshall said in a statement.

Southern right whale with rare 'white' calf off southern NSW coast
Authorities have issued a warning to keep away from a rare southern right whale calf, spotted alongside it’s mother off the southern coast of NSW (Maree Jackson – NPWS Right Whale ID Program)

“Its white areas will darken to grey as it ages — it’s one of around one-in-30 southern right whale calves born with brindle colouring.

“This is a rare event to see a virtually white brindle calf, as southern right whales are mostly very dark, although some have splashes of white called a blaze.”

The mother and its calf were captured on camera via a drone.

“If you look closely at the video you can also see pale grey areas on the mother, who also carries the recessive brindle gene,” Marshall said.

While the duo have sparked a social media frenzy, authorities are reminding people that it’s illegal to approach whales any closer than 300 metres when a calf is present.

Southern right whale with rare 'white' calf off southern NSW coast
Accredited drone volunteer, Maree Jackson used her camera’s 7x optical zoom function from above the legal height to capture the stunning close-ups as the ‘white’ calf surfaced for a breath (Maree Jackson – NPWS Right Whale ID Program)

The restrictions include via boats, surfboards, paddleboards and kayaks, while drones are also legally required to stay at least 100 metres above the animals.

Stunning vision of the mother and calf was captured off the south coast recently by accredited drone volunteer Maree Jackson from the NSW government’s Right Whale ID research program.

Jackson used her camera’s 7x optical zoom function from above the legal height to capture the stunning close-ups as the “white” calf surfaced for a breath while swimming alongside its mother.

“Curious onlookers are reminded to keep back and give the nursing mother and calf space to rest undisturbed,” Marshall said.

“A calf needs up to 300 litres of milk a day to gain the weight needed for the 5000-kilometre swim back down to Antarctic waters in the coming month, so both the mother and calf need to be left alone so they can rest and feel safe.”

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