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What every whale watcher needs to know about Migaloo

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Wild About Whales
Migaloo whale breach, Cowley Beach. Photo: J.Dean/OEH

When it comes to superstars of the annual whale migration, they don’t get much bigger than the white whale Migaloo. This man of mystery has been captivating whale watchers for years, with paparazzi, scientists and whale lovers alike all desperate to know more about this elusive creature. Here are 10 interesting facts about this celebrity cetacean;

1. He might not actually be albino

Despite being widely labelled as albino, this has not yet been proven. He is currently known as a hypo-pigmented humpback whale.

2. We’re pretty sure he’s a dad

An all-white humpback whale calf was spotted in 2011. It’s very likely this is Migaloo’s offspring, and as a result this little one has been named Migaloo Junior (nicknamed MJ for short).

3. He’s seen some tough times

Unfortunately poor Migaloo was struck by a trimaran in 2003, which has left him with distinctive scaring on his back.

4. His name suits him well

Migaloo loosely means ‘white fella’ in Aboriginal dialect.

5. He’s definitely a ‘he’

Not only does he sing like a male, but DNA testing of dead skin cells (taken from the water after breaching) has confirmed that Migaloo is indeed of the male gender.

6. He’s (almost) one of a kind

Like other celebrities, Migaloo is part of an exclusive gang. In fact, there are only four reported white whales in the world, one of whom is MJ (Migaloo’s offspring).

7. He’s heading into his 30s

Migaloo was first observed in 1991, and it’s now thought he’s around 28-30 years old.

8. He has special celebrity privileges

Because Migaloo is such a unique whale, he has been given ‘special status’ in both NSW and Queensland to protect him from harassment, with hefty fines for people getting too close.

9. He’s taught us a lot about whale migration

Migaloo certainly stands out in a crowd.  As a result, he’s helped scientists better understand whale migration patterns off the Australian coast.

10. He causes a splash wherever he goes

The excitement, discussion and intrigue that accompanies a sighting of Migaloo is without fail. Just check out the Wild About Whales Facebook page when he’s spotted and you’ll see what we mean.

Migaloo White Whale, The White Whale Research Centre. Photo: White Whale Research Centre/OEH

Have you ever seen Migaloo?  Keep track of whale sightings along the NSW coast using the Wild About Whales mobile app. Download it for free and tell us about your own whale sighting.

*Thanks to ORCCA and The White Whale Research Centre for information included within this post.

For the latest on whale watching and the other great things to see and do in NSW National Parks, sign up for our quarterly e-newsletter Naturescapes.

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