Malnourishment Threatens Humpback Whales’ Survival

August 9, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. malnutrition /ˌmælnuˈtrɪʃən/ (n.) – the state of not having adequate vitamins or nutrients in the body due to one’s failure or inability to eat properly
Example: Some whales suffer from malnutrition because of lack of available food.

2. necropsy /ˈnɛk rɒp si/ (n.) – an examination of the body of a dead animal to determine its cause of death
Example: Through a necropsy, scientists discovered that the whale died because of plastic scraps in its system.

3. blubber /ˈblʌb ər/ (n.) – the layer of fat that is found between the skin and muscle of whales and other aquatic animals
Example: Slaughtering whales for their blubber is considered illegal in many places.

4. carcass /ˈkɑr kəs/ (n.) – the dead body of an animal
Example: The beach is temporarily closed down because there are too many fish carcasses.

5. foraging /ˈfɔr ɪ dʒɪŋ/ (n.) – the act of searching natural food, such as plants and animals, in a wide area
Example: For wild animals, foraging is a natural process that is necessary for survival.


Read the text below.
Researchers claim that malnutrition may cause the mass stranding of humpback whales in Western Australia.

Recent incidents indicate that most of the stranded whales are calves [kavs, kahvs] or newborn whales. Veterinary researchers from Murdoch [MUR-dok] University have conducted necropsies on a number of calves. After analyzing the blubber of the carcasses, researchers discovered that many of the whales were undernourished because of low fat content.

Blubber is important to the survival of whales. Carly Holyoake [HOHL-yohk], one of the researchers, said that blubber is essential for whale survival. It provides energy, regulates temperature, and enables whales to float on water.

Holyoake also expressed the possibility that the whales’ poor nutrition is due to the critical decline of their main food, krill. Krill has become scarce [skairs] because of the commercialized fishing and climate change. As a result, whales suffer prolonged periods of foraging, which do not only weaken them but also delays their migration.

Humpback whales are known to travel from Antarctica, where krill were once abundant, to the north coasts of Australia, their breeding ground. The lack of food, however, forces cows or pregnant whales to give birth before they reach warmer waters, which are more suitable for bearing their young.

According to reports, only two to three whale incidents are expected to occur in Australia yearly. However, the number of cases has increased at an alarming rate in recent years: 75 incidents were reported from 2008 to 2010, and in 2011, 17 humpback whales got stranded, 14 of which were calves.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What do you think is the best solution to help the whales from being undernourished?
·         What can the authorities do to solve problems on stranded whales?

Discussion B

·         What is the importance of preserving aquatic animals?
·         How would you personally help in keeping the ocean a safe home for animals?

August 9, 2014