|Scenes from the National Geographic Channel's launch of the "Big Blue" exhibit, an interactive exhibit on the Blue Whale, at the Glorietta 5 in Makati. Video by Kristine Servando.
...and other facts about the Blue Whale
MANILA - The National Geographic Channel (NGC) has brought to Manila an exhibit that features a life-size replica of a Blue Whale as a way to inspire Filipinos to protect marine endangered species.
The sculpture, measuring 9 meters long, was unveiled on Tuesday (November 17) at the main atrium of Glorietta 5 in Makati. Blue Whales are the largest creatures on earth.
The general public, especially children, are encouraged to see and "interact" with the Blue Whale sculpture.
"We want to bring this close to the younger generation so [they will be able to] visualize, to touch, to see, to feel what it is to be a baby Blue Whale," said Sonia Jackson, Senior Vice President of Marketing of FOX International Channel, which distributes channels like NGC worldwide.
Meet the Blue Whale
"Nobody knows this animal (Blue Whale). It's the largest animal to ever inhabit our planet (even bigger than dinosaurs). And very few of us will ever get the chance to see one in our lifetime. We're hoping to move the message of [marine] conservation - not only of Blue Whales but other marine animals as well," she said.
The replica of a 2 month old female Blue Whale calf was crafted by professional model makers and animators in Australia using footage of live whales. Details like muscles and the animal's gray-blue skin were rendered as accurately as possible.
A baby Blue Whale typically weighs 2,700 kilograms and can grow up to 10 pounds an hour after being born. Blue Whale mothers, who carry their babies in the womb for about a year, give birth to calves every 2 to 3 years.
The Blue Whale exhibit, complete with video presentations about the "secret lives of Blue Whales", will be displayed at the Glorietta 5 until November 26, before it will be transferred to 4 other malls in Metro Manila until February next year. (see mall tour schedules below.)
The exhibit has been toured in other Asian destinations including Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Taipei in Taiwan, Singapore, and Shanghai in China.
Whales come to the Philippines too
Jackson said that Filipinos are likely to be concerned about issues affecting the ocean and its creatures, since they live in an archipelago (a group of islands surrounded by seas).
"There's no better place for this whale (exhibit) than a place with 7,107 islands," she said, adding that the need for conservation of marine resources is closer to home than people think.
Marine mammal expert Dr. Arnel Andrew Yaptinchay said that the Philippines is home to 26 Cetacean species (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), including the Blue Whale.
The last Blue Whale sighting was in May 2005, when a Blue Whale mother and calf were seen in the Bohol Sea. Blue Whales are found in all oceans in the world.
"We don't know if they are regular residents of the Philippines, but this shows that we are in their migratory path. Definitely, there is more to find out in future research," Yaptinchay said.
However, the scientist said that only 30% of Philippine oceans are protected, so many marine species are vulnerable to hunting and over-fishing.
|FUN BLUE WHALE FACTS
Blue Whales are longer than a basketball court.
The average blue whale's length is equivalent to two school buses and 25 fully-grown African bull elephants.
Their mouths are big enough to hold 100 people
Blue whales have no teeth, but eat 4 tons of seafood a day, equivalent to 64,000 hamburgers.
A Blue Whale's heart is the size of a small car, with arteries big enough for humans to crawl through.
Their lungs are the size of a bathtub. They dive for 10 to 20 minute intervals and surface for only seconds to fill their lungs with air.
A Blue whale's call (188 decibels) is louder than a jet engine (140 decibels).
It can communicate with other whales up to 1,600 kilometers away.
Blue Whales release sprays that are taller than a 2-storey building from their blowhole or spout.
When whales spray water through their blowholes, they are actually exhaling. The blowhole also helps the whale breathe in air.
Every Blue Whale is born with distinct dorsal patterns or distinct markings on their back. These are like fingerprints that help scientists identify them.
Blue Whale males have the biggest penises in the world, with sexual organs that can reach up to 8 feet long (2.4 meters). Blue Whales mate in warmer waters.
Sources: National Geographic Channel Press Kit, The American Cetacean Society, and Marine Mammal Center
Yaptinchay said the biggest threat to whales and dolphins are non-targeted catches by commercial fishing outfits that are pressured to harvest more and more fish to supply the world population's food demands.
Since whales and dolphins swim with schools of fish, they are accidentally caught in nets and slaughtered.
Whales and sea creatures also choke on plastic and toxic waste that are dumped in oceans.
Whales were hunted for their blubber (a thick layer of fat under their skin) to produce whale oil that is used for candle wax, food, wool processing, and cosmetics.
Though the Philippines has numerous laws in place for marine conservation, Yaptinchay said these laws are not fully implemented.
Mark Dia, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Deputy Campaign Director, said that although the Philippines is a biodiversity hotspot (meaning it is home to many animals and plants), it is also "an extinction hotspot."
He said that Filipinos need stronger implementation of laws protecting marine resources, and should "make sure that they don't do harm to the sea and jeopardize both the ocean's and humans' future."
Marine experts like Yaptinchay are expected to hold educational "sharing sessions" about marine issues with students and guests throughout the Blue Whale exhibit's 3-month run in Manila.
The 'secret lives' of whales
The exhibit was also a way to promote NGC's new 2-hour documentary on Blue Whales called "Big Blue." The documentary's next showing is on December 9 and 10.
Meant as a conservation project, "Big Blue" filmmakers sought to gain more information about the Blue Whales' migratory, feeding, courtship and breeding patterns - of which little is reportedly known.
"If you know where Blue Whales feed and give birth, then you can start protecting those areas," Jackson said.
The documentary has unique footage of a Blue Whale giving birth to a live calf at the Costa Rica Dome (a region in the Pacific Ocean), as well as shots of a Blue Whale swallowing an entire swarm of krill or small shrimp, among others.
These scenes have never been documented before and were made possible through NatGeo's Crittercams, which were attached to the Blue Whale through suction cups. The Crittercams help scientists study wild animal behavior without human interference.
Blue Whales have been placed on several endangered species lists including the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List and the species watchlist of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
They currently number around 3,000 to 5,000 individuals, according to the WWF, compared to 250,000 individual Blue Whales recorded several decades ago.
These highly migratory animals live up to 80 to 90 years, similar to the life spans of humans. However, their populations have been threatened by commercial whaling, overfishing, and climate change.
Why should I care about whales?
Dia said humans usually find it hard to understand the connections between themselves, the ocean, and animals like Blue Whales; so they simply stop caring.
"Everything is interconnected. Actually, every second breath you take comes from the sea. It's a big part of our lives and not taking care of [the ocean] will create massive problems for us," he said.
As an example, Dia said that human activities contribute to climate change through carbon emissions, which cause the sea to heat up.
When oceans heat up, certain species that survive at specific temperatures die, and fish and whales are no longer able to locate their traditional feeding and breeding grounds (areas that used to be marked by specific water temperatures).
"This means we need to reduce our carbon emissions or our carbon footprint," he said.
Dia also said that when Blue Whale populations die off, there will be no creature to limit krill populations.
An overpopulation of one species or the extinction of another sets off a chain reaction in the food web, upsetting the natural balance.
This can put stress on fish populations, which means humans have less and less marine resources to use or preserve.
"So not only are we changing the temperature of the oceans, we're also giving a lot of onslaught through waste and toxic waste," Dia said.
Greenpeace, like NGC, are actively campaigning for environmental protection.
Greenpeace is running its global oceans program that aims to establish protected areas in 40% of the world's high seas. Report, photos, and video by Kristine Servando, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.
National Geographic's "Big Blue" exhibit schedule: Glorietta 5 (November 17-26), Trinoma Mall (November 28-December 11), Alabang Town Center (January 4-17), Market! Market! (January 18-February 2), and Greenbelt Mall (February 3-17).