Whales and dolphins have flippin’ awesome support bubbles
Friends and family all get involved in bringing up the younger generation of whales and dolphins.
Losing the childcare provided by our extended families, childminders, nurseries and schools has put pressure on many families. We rely on these support networks to take care of our young while we do what we need to do to provide food and security, and socialise. Looking after children that aren’t our own is common in human society, but is not the case for most species. Whales and dolphins are, however, an exception.
Whales and dolphins are amazing - your donation will help us keep them safe.
Pilot whales - community living
It takes a village to raise a pilot whale. They live in multi-generational families of 24 to 48 whales and calves regularly swim with male and female adults, other than their parents. This shared parenting is a sign of a very tightly bonded society. It might be that by spending time with different adults, the youngsters are learning how to behave within their community.
Sperm whale babysitters
These deep divers operate a kind of babysitting circle, taking it in turns to look after the young whales while the rest of the group is hunting in the depths. Female sperm whales will even suckle babies who are not their own, leaving Mum free to forage. A group that protects each other’s young will grow bigger meaning more whales to look out for orcas.
Orcas - family is everything
Granny plays a vital role in orca society. Orcas are one of only five species known to go through the menopause (the others being belugas, narwhals, short-finned pilot whales and humans). Orcas experience menopause at around 45 and can live to 90 so once they are no longer able to have babies, they have a lot of life left to pass on knowledge and help look after the younger generations. While Mum is diving for food, baby stays at the surface where Granny can babysit. Research has revealed that an orca calf will be four times more likely to die within the next two years if their grandmother has died.
Dolphin day care
Dolphins babysit for each other. Male dolphins have been seen overseeing groups of juvenile dolphins and older brothers and sisters will take care of their siblings - we think this might be a way of teaching them to be parents. Baby dolphins have been seen interacting with other youngsters in ‘playpens’ created by a ring of protective adults. Dolphins will even babysit dolphins of another species. In the Bahamas, female spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins hang out together and even look after each other’s kids.
The more I learn about whales and dolphins, the more in awe of them I become and the more determined to protect them. Thank you for your support.
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