ALDES PENINSULA, July 6, 2013 (AFP) – It’s a weird, lopsided fight if ever there was one: seagulls divebombing to attack and feed on the fat of 50-ton whales and their babies. And the birds are winning. The battle, new in recent years, is playing out in the South Atlantic off the coast of Argentina’s Patagonia region, and is not known to be happening in waters elsewhere in the world that are home to the mighty mammals.
The effect of all the relentless nibbling is a pernicious disruption of an eco-system. One theory as to why it is happening is there is an overpopulation of seagulls — in this case, the kelp gull.
Whales use these Argentine waters to mate, give birth and nurse their young, and what with all the airborne harassment, whales are taking new evasive measures as they swim, separating mothers from their calves and denying them nourishment.
Whales do not have lips for sucking, so mothers expel a thick milk in the water for their calves to ingest. The babies need more than 100 liters of it per day.
“With each attack this process is interrupted, and it is a crucial moment for the growth of the whales,” said Mariano Sironi, director of studies at Argentina’s Institute for Whale C