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Southern Right Whale

© Victoria Cortez

© Lee Dingain

Class: Mammalia


Family: Balaenidae

Scientific Name:Eubalaena australis

IUCN Red List status: Least Concern

Protected by the following WLT projects:


Species Range (IUCN)


The Southern Right Whale is a baleen whale; rather than teeth, they have long and numerous baleen through which water is filtered to feed on plankton. Their head is extremely large, making up one-third of its total body length. They have short, wide flippers and a V-shaped blow hole and, unusually for a baleen whale, they not have a dorsal fin or a grooved throat.  The Right Whale is so called because it was regarded as the 'right' whale to hunt by whalers, as it is large, slow-moving and floats when dead.


Southern Right Whales feed on plankton.

They are a migratory species and form breeding groups that travel to specific areas to reproduce. During the mating season, up to eight males may mate with one female. The gestation period of Southern Right Whales is 11-12 months, after which the female gives birth to a single, large calf. Calves are weaned after a year, and will reach sexual maturity at 9-10 years old.


The Southern Right Whale is found only in the Southern hemisphere. Major breeding areas are around southern Australia and New Zealand, and the Atlantic coast of South America (Argentina and Brazil) and southern Africa.

Threats and Conservation

Populations of this whale plummeted as a result of severe over-exploitation between the 1600s to the 1930s. Since it was given international protection in 1935, populations have recovered but the species still suffers from disturbance from ships, divers, coastal industrial activity, entanglement in fishing gear and pollution.

Learn more

See IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for more information on the classification of the Southern Right Whale. Photos of the Coastal Steppe Project (Flickr)


1. IUCN Red List
2. ARKive

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