Got milk? If you’re referring to albino whales, Mexico does. The famous “Gallon of Milk” albino gray whale has returned to the warm waters off the Pacific Coast of Mexico after a six-year absence. Whale watchers excitedly report that she did not return alone, but with her calf.
According to the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP),
This specimen was observed for the first time during the 2008-2009 season as a whale calf with the albino characteristics for which it is named … In a recent sighting, this time in an area known as Alambre Island in the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, “Gallon of Milk” was accompanied by a calf that was completely gray, which must mean she has become a mother for the first time.
The nationally protected lagoon is a stopover for migrating gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) and site of a yearly whale census and aerial survey by conservationists. The lagoons serve as a breeding, birthing and nursing area for the endangered whales and a final layover for one of nature’s longest migrations. The migration begins in the Bering Sea, about 6,000 miles north and this year over 2,000 gray whales were counted.
The return of “Gallon of Milk” was exciting for a myriad of reasons. Albinism, the lack of melanin in the body, is rare in marine mammals. These animals are at risk for skin cancer and lack camouflage from predators. They are also less likely to integrate with others in their species and, as outcasts, are less likely to find a mate. Gray whales are highly social and travel and forage in intimate pods. For “Gallon of Milk” to do so well is astounding. She is also teaching her new baby the whales’ migration patterns.
Bruce Mate, director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute says,
Usually calves follow their mothers from breeding areas to foraging grounds.
Gray whales can live up to 70 years and grow to reach 50 feet in length and weigh 40 tons. Considering that calves consume about 50 gallons of high-fat milk per day, “Gallon of Milk” is living up to her name.