Sighting whales across the Indian coastline isn’t an uncommon phenomenon, but when Luban, a female Arabian humpback whale showed up along Kochi’s shoreline on New Year’s Eve, scientists across the world were left dumbfounded by the never-before-observed behaviour.
Documented as the most genetically distinct humpback whales in the world and probably the most isolated whale population on earth throughout their 70,000-year long history, Luban’s appearance in the Arabian Sea is quite possibly the first recorded trans-oceanic crossing by an Arabian humpback whale.
In a journey spanning over 1500 km, which began from the coast of Oman in November, the eastward migration by the cow whale, across the stretch of Indian Ocean, emerged to be a rare feat amongst the usual behavioural patterns observed in the species.
Luban, who is named after the Arabic term for frankincense tree because of a tree-shaped pattern at the base of her tail fluke, is the lone female amongst 14 whales who were tagged on their dorsal fins under the Renaissance Whale and Dolphin Project project by the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) to learn more about the one of the least studied whale species.
Assisting the society from India is the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries of the University of Kerala as an effort to document the marine biodiversity along the Indian shoreline.
Her extraordinary voyage is being tracked by satellites, which located her near Goa in the last week of December, following which she was seen whooshing alongside Kochi’s coastline for a couple of days before heading to Alappuzha and further down south.
She was last traced by scientists along the coast of Kanyakumari.
According to a professor at the Kerala University, this stray behaviour could be in search of a mating partner, and it has not yet been determined that whether she has been traversing alone or not, reports Mirror Now.
The species is marked as ‘endangered’ on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), owing to excessive whaling in the 60s that brought down the already solitary Arabic humpback whale population to a mere 100.
With this project, the scientists hope to learn more about the elusive species and save them from the brink of extinction.