Australia guards famous white whale Migaloo from eager fans

0,,19431660_303,00 /js/de.dw.cdaLanguage.min.jsWildlife officials in Australia have set up an escort for the rare white humpback Migaloo, who is heading up the coast to the Great Barrier Reef to mate. They warned the crowd of onlookers against disturbing the animal. /js/de.dw.cdaLanguage.min.jsAll boats needed to stay at least 500 meters (547 yards) from Migaloo, Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles said on Thursday.

The white humpback is under state protection, granting him a perimeter five times wider than that of a normal whale. /js/de.dw.cdaLanguage.min.js“Anyone breaking these rules and harassing the whales should be ashamed of themselves,” he said in a statement. “Stop and think about how you would feel if you were responsible for hurting one of the few white whales in the world.”

Officials made the announcement after media reported helicopters, boats, and drones coming out to spot Migaloo off Australia’s Gold Coast the day before. /js/de.dw.cdaLanguage.min.js‘Safe passage’

The fine for getting too close to a whale can vary between several hundred and several thousands of dollars.

The rules are in place to “protect the whales and give them safe passage during their migration along the Queensland coast,” according to Miles. /js/de.dw.cdaLanguage.min.jsMigaloo was previously spotted off Byron Bay earlier this week.

“I cried. I screamed ‘You gorgeous whale, thank you for being here for us today,'” Alison Reid, who saw the animal on a whale watching cruise, told national radio on Tuesday. “It was just an incredible sight, it was so unreal.”

Children’s hero

The albino animal was first spotted in the same area in 1991, and has since become a symbol of preservation for environmental activists. He was later sighted by scientists, who asked the elders of an Aboriginal village to name him. The name Migaloo means “white fella.” Samples of his skin and his singing voice confirmed he was a male, and researchers believe he is about 30 years old. He is one of the two known completely white humpbacks in the world. /js/de.dw.cdaLanguage.min.jsMigaloo collided with a boat in 2003, leaving scars on his back, according to one of the websites dedicated to him, He is also the topic of an Australian children’s book.

The humpback population in east Australia is estimated to over 15,000 specimens, recovering from the brink of extinction after a whaling ban in the 1960s. They grow to be between 12 to 15 meters long and can weigh up to 40 tons. They eat between 1,000 and 1,500 kg of plankton, krill and small fish every day.

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