Incredible moment sperm whale gives birth assisted by ‘midwives’ in rarely recorded event
This is the incredible moment a sperm whale gives birth, with several ‘midwives’ escorting the newborn to the surface for the baby’s first breath.
The footage and pictures show the pregnant mother swimming among a pod of the normally shy animals in the Azores.
But suddenly the female gives birth, with several other whales surrounding her.
Quickly the group usher the newborn towards the surface as the weak mother watches on.
The remarkable incident was captured by wildlife photographer Kurt Amsler, who said: “Newborn whales are not able to swim within the first minutes and would drown without assistance.
“That’s why there are always other females in attendance as midwives. By this time, the mother has arrived to support her newborn, which is easily 2.80 metres in length.
“With every passing minute the baby is increasingly mobile and able to swim independently over short distances. I can also hear his communication, which has a higher pitch than the others – the voice of a child.”
To capture the rarely ever seen event, Kurt, from Bandol, France, sought special authorisation from the Azores government to film with the gentle and protected creatures.
He spent nine hours in a small boat being guided by ‘spotters’ positioned in towers along the Azores coast, who were able to see the ‘blow’ of the whales, and radio in their position.
Kurt described the birth itself, which occurred moments after he jumped in the water.
He said: “For the first 60 metres, I go as fast as possible, scanning the blue waters to catch a glimpse of the animals.
“However, there is nothing but a big murky cloud. I then realise it is blood, which appears greenish under water by the loss of red spectrum.
“At first I thought this could explain the pod’s strange behaviour – a wounded animal watched over by the others.
“As the whales’ communication sounds intensify, I can see the group about 18 metres in front of me, just below the surface and huddled together. With the sun directly in front of me, it is very difficult to see exactly what is going on.
“I then descend to 15 meters and carefully pass beneath the whales. And now they are clearly distinguished from the background and I realise what is happening – this is not a wounded animal but a mother giving birth.
“Parts of skin and the placenta are floating around and I can see the baby, which had left the womb just few seconds earlier.
“It is still immobile and supported by five midwifes to the surface for its first breath. The mother, still weak, is watching it from below.
“In my 45 years of underwater photography, I have documented many spectacular and unique situations. However, this experience was the most powerful of all.
“More important for me is the fact that these unique images will spread awareness and encourage people to support the protection of these intelligent and endangered marine mammals in any way they can.”