The Whales came, we have loved seeing them, and they have conquered our hearts …”
Have you been captivated by a humpback whale breaching off the reef this season?
Have you been stopped in your tracks to admire the blow of mist as a humpback whale exhales before diving into the deep blue?
It is impossible not to be touched or awed by the humpback whales that become part of the Cook Islands family from July through October every year.
On Wednesday, Cook Islands Whale Research, in collaboration with Liana Scott and Erika Bult of the Muri Beach Club Hotel, will honour their presence by celebrating the fabulous humpback whale season in the Cook Islands this year.
It is time to bid farewell, aere ra, to our family, who will begin their long migration to Antarctica to feed.
July through October finds the Rarotongan waters filled with humpback whales that come to calve, sing and mate. They have made a long journey to Oceania from Antarctica and do not eat during the six to eight months when they travel up to the Cook Islands, across Oceania and back down to Antarctica, which are their feeding grounds.
The Cook Islands Whale Research team studies everything that they can – the genetics, song, behaviour, photo identification, population abundance, navigation and migratory pathways – about the different whales that arrive and become a part of the Cook Islands family each year.
“We are constantly learning and discovering more about them everyday,” states Nan Hauser, Director of the Cook Islands Whale Research Project.
This research of the Cook Islands population of humpback whales is of vital importance as the Oceania population is listed as “endangered” according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
“They are the most “at risk” population of humpback whales on the planet,” explains Hauser.
Satellite tagging results and seventeen years of humpback research by Hauser has revealed that the Cook Islands humpback whales travel through Oceania on their migratory pathway.
“Due to the thousands of longlines that are set through Oceania and the other fishing and whaling practices that can harm the humpbacks, we worry about their safety,” explains Erika Bult of Muri beach Club Hotel.
This is why Muri Beach Club Hotel started a Safe Passage Campaign this year – to support the research, in particular the satellite tagging, which will help to protect the humpback whales that come to the Cook Islands and their ‘Safe Passage’ to Antarctica and elsewhere.
The Cook Islands has been a leader in the protection of its whales, declaring its waters a Whale Sanctuary in 2001. Cook Islanders have always felt a connection to the whales, and even our Polynesian voyaging ancestors followed the pathways of the whales in their travels.
“We are all irresistibly drawn by their grace, beauty and serenity; and when we see them it always seems like they know something important that we do not, yet they nevertheless always forgive our human ignorance “ says Bult.
In addition Bult feels that we as individuals in the Cook Islands can realistically contribute to saving our welcomed annual ocean visitors.
“Our population, although small in number, are in the unique position of having control over such an enormous part of the Pacific ocean, and this gives us the capability to actually determine the whales safety in our part of the World. This could set a wonderful example for other countries to follow, and together we make a big difference in the lives of these animals.”
An easy way to make a difference is to show your support of the outstanding work that Nan Hauser and her Team at Cook Islands Whale Research have carried out – by attending their end of season “Aere Ra” to honour the whales.
The Safe Passage Campaign Fundraiser and Aere Ra To’ora (Farewell to the Whales) will be held on Wednesday, October 8 2014 at the Muri Beach Club Hotel.
An Aere Ra ceremony will be held on the beach starting at 5:30pm with a traditional conch shell call with a very exciting difference … to experience this you will have to be here”, says Hauser.
Afterwards, all ticket holding guests will experience an exclusive event in the beautiful upstairs lounge overlooking the lagoon, and will be treated to a welcome cocktail plus hot and cold canapés whilst meeting other supporters, team members and likeminded souls.
As part of the evening Hauser, in her official capacity as Director of Cook Islands Whale Research, will tell this season’s incredible stories, play the haunting whale song with phrases and melodies unique to this region, and show the amazing video plus photos of the islands whales.
A short auction of wonderful prizes will be held to raise funds for the purchase of next year’s whale tags. In addition to this, a few lucky ticket holders will receive food and beverage vouchers, up to $250, donated by the Muri Beach Club Hotel, to use exclusively on that evening.
Tickets to the Event cost $25, and 100 of the money will go to supporting the research dedicated to the Cook Islands’ whales.
Tickets can be bought at Muri Beach Club Hotel reception, the Cook Islands Whale & Wildlife Centre, from any of the whale team members, or at the event on Wednesday evening.
“Please celebrate with us! Bring your family, friends, or just yourself and be a part of the farewell and safe passage to our whale friends’ says Hauser. “We are very excited for a fabulous night and well-deserved celebration for the beautiful whales that pass our shores. They fill the hearts of all of us living on this little Island!”
Aere Ra e Meitaki Maata To’ora!!