This holiday season, WWF is introducing four new species for you to adopt and take home, including the beluga whale. Let’s meet one of Canada’s most iconic species!
Did you know that the beluga’s bulbous forehead, called a “melon”, is flexible and capable of changing shape? This is what allows them to make different facial expressions and produce the extraordinary range of chirps, clicks, whistles and squeals that has earned them the nickname the “canary of the sea.”
The beluga, Delphinapterus leucas, is an extremely sociable mammal that travels in pods ranging in size from ten to hundreds of whales. These vocalizations are useful for communicating with their pod, detecting predators, finding food, and caring for their young.
Where do they live?
Belugas have evolved without a dorsal fin, allowing them to move easily among sea ice that protects them from predatory killer whales. This is why belugas live primarily in areas with Arctic sea ice. Two-thirds of the world beluga population summer in Canadian waters, with approximately 900 whales calling the St. Lawrence estuary their home.
What do they eat?
Beluga whales are close to the top of the marine food chain. They feed on a large variety of fish and crustacean species, including salmon, smelt, herring, Arctic and polar cod, shrimp, crab, mollusks, and marine worms. They feed in both shallow and deep water areas, in both open water and bottom habitats.
What are their main threats?
They are experiencing habitat destruction and degradation from the melting sea ice due to climate change. This is opening Arctic waters to more human activities, increasing noise pollution that negatively impacts the beluga’s ability to communicate. The endangered St. Lawrence beluga whale population in particular is experiencing the threats of contamination from toxic chemicals.
What is WWF doing?
WWF has supported conservation of the St. Lawrence Estuary belugas through our Endangered Species Recovery Fund and by founding and co-chairing a recovery team for their population.
Launched just last month, Belugas on the Move is a new research project supported by WWF. Through tagging St. Lawrence Estuary belugas, Robert Michaud and his team at the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM) will learn more about the challenges this population faces. This will help us all learn more about their wintering grounds and conditions, filling a gap in existing knowledge of these mysterious whales. Once we have a better understanding of which areas are essential to these whales’ survival throughout the year, we can work to protect them by reducing environmental stressors in critical areas.
In the Arctic, WWF is working to help identify critical beluga areas to help protect them and their habitat. We have completed an oil spill trajectory modeling project that maps the risk of oil spills in the Beaufort Sea and how these spills will significantly harm all wildlife, including belugas. WWF has supported tagging research on the movements of Arctic beluga whales, as well as community-based projects monitoring beluga health, and is leading research to better understand the impacts of ocean noise.
How you can help
With your symbolic adoption, you’re helping WWF fight to secure the long-term survival of the beluga whale. What’s more, you’re also helping to save other species at risk around the world and to provide a healthier natural world for us all. Each adoption kit includes a high quality wildlife plush, personalized adoption certificate, a stunning educational species poster, a reusable tote bag, and a charitable tax receipt.
Visit our e-store shop.wwf.ca for all your holiday gift options from WWF and give a meaningful gift that keeps on giving!