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24 Maui Whale Watch Magazine • WhaleWatchingOnMaui.com RESEARCHER'S CORNER MAUI'S KEIKI KOHOLA By Rachel Cartwright Each winter, the waters of the Au'Au Channel between Maui and Lanai become an impromptu nursery for a new generation of humpback whales. The Keiki Koholā Project is a small, local research organization with a big goal; their aim is to protect this unique playground and ensure the health and safety of the humpback whale mother and calf pairs within this special area. Pregnant female humpback whales swim over 3000 miles to reach Maui waters. Though yet to be witnessed, mothers give birth to a 2,000 lb. calf. Although newborn calves measure 12 –15 feet in length, they can't hold their breath for long and they can't even swim very well. In northern waters where whales feed, young calves would be easy prey for their key predator, the transient Orca. So, to protect their calves, pregnant mothers head south. Their epic journey brings them to the warm, calm waters of Maui, a sanctuary where they can birth and raise their calves in safety. In the Hawaiian language, the term "keiki" means young one and the term "koholā" references whales. Humpback whale calves are therefore often referred to as Keiki Koholā. The Keiki Koholā Project is a grassroots non-profit group that aims to provide information to ensure the well-being and safety of humpback whale mother and calf pairs during their time in Hawaiian waters. Dr. Rachel Cartwright leads the scientific work, while experienced boat captain Amy Venema handles logistics and outreach. John and Dan Cesere, of Cesere Brothers Photography, bring their photographic skills to the team. Vanessa Hern is the team intern, and other local volunteers assist the team on the water. Through their research, the team has identified key stages in the development of humpback whale calves during their time in Hawaii. They've also identified specific areas that comprise critical habitat for mother and calf pairs. Currently, the team is focusing on the impact of vessels, including whale-watching boats, on the behavior of mother and calf pairs. So far the team's research has shown that while young calves are typically very active, maturing calves spend as much as 50% of their time at rest. Younger calves are most frequently found offshore, but more mature, resting calves may be found anywhere across the Au'Au Channel. Resting calves grow rapidly, by as much as 1 cm. per day, and this high rate of growth is key to their survival. Only around 60% of calves will survive to adulthood, but bigger calves stand a better chance of survival to adulthood. How you can help: The warm, sheltered waters around Maui offer a safe and secure haven for humpback whale mother and calf pairs. Here are some things that you can do during your vacation to help safeguard this special place: 1. If you go out whale-watching, choose a reputable boat company and ask the company how they support the protection of this area. 2. If you go out kayaking or paddle-boarding, be sure to follow the rules. Stay at least 100 yards away and don't leap-frog in front of traveling whales. Give mother and calf pairs extra space. Rest is really important for these pairs and they are easily disturbed. 3. Consider offsetting the carbon cost of your trip or joining an organization that helps protect our oceans. Visit the Keiki Koholā Project website for some suggestions. For more information visit the Keiki Koholā Project website at www.caringforcalves.org. Note: Images obtained during permitted research activities conducted under permit 10018 and 17145. © CesereBrothers.com NMFS permit 17145 The Keiki Kohola Project NMFS permit 17145 The Keiki Kohola Project NMFS permit 10018 Ultimate Whale Watch provides financial support to whale researchers who are publishing legitimate science, as well as support such as boats and volunteers to assist with research. Here's a list of some of them whom you can contribute to directly, and the research they have published. Note: On July 18, 2012, one of Maui's most celebrated researchers for over 34 years, Dr. Dan R. Salden, passed away. He is missed by all. Robin Baird Cascadia Research Collective Toothed Whales and Dolphins Contact: CascadiaResearch.org Dr. Rachel Cartwright The Keiki Kohola Project Protecting Humpback Habitats Contact: CaringForCalves.org Dr. Meagan Jones Whale Trust Maui Whale Research & Awareness Contact: WhaleTrust.org Dr. Mark Deakos HI. Assn. for Marine Education & Research Marine Resources & Policy Contact: HAMERinHawaii.com © CesereBrothers.com NMFS permit 10018 Supported by Ultimate Whale Watch

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