Arabian humpback whales are among the most ‘endangered species’ and are considered the ‘world’s most isolated whale population on earth’ by scientists. However, no one had really expected one particular female humpback whale to do what she really did! Named Luban, the whale began migrating eastwards in the Indian Ocean leaving her shoal far behind in the Gulf of Oman on November 12 last year. However, she shocked everyone pleasantly by swimming over 1500 kilometers to the Kerala coast. Luban’s journey across the Arabian Sea was tracked by satellites. Prior to Christmas, she had come close to the Goan coast and then moved swiftly at a speed of 5 km/hr towards the coast of Kerala. According to local scientists, she is believed to have spent a couple of days near the Kochi coast before moving once again towards Alappuzha and the southern coast. Her last location was pinpointed to be near the coast of Kanyakumari.
“The fact that one female has now moved outside Omani waters during the known breeding season makes this theory concerning connectivity across the region more likely, and a first step towards considering humpbacks in the region as a single population unit,” said Andrew Willson from Five Oceans Environmental Services in a statement.
According to a 2014 research study, Arabian humpback whales may even have stayed separate from other humpback species for nearly 70,000 years. But Luban’s landmark journey has changed all that. With Luban’s journey, scientists are positive about finding more about the Arabian humpback species, which are listed as ‘endangered’ on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The name Luban is an Arabic term for frankincense tree. The scientist named her Luban as she is learnt to have a tree-shaped pattern at the base of her tail fluke.