Researchers monitor these whales from above, but protecting them will be its own challenge.

According to popular belief, right whales got their name because they were considered the "right" whales to hunt.

They were preferable for hunters because they swim near shore and float when killed. That sort of mindset drove their numbers so low that southern right whales are still recovering, even though we banned whaling of the species in 1937.

About 12,000 remain of one species, the southern right whale, according to one estimate.

You might imagine this would sound an alarm to keep them protected. Unfortunately, a new danger is at hand.


Their prime breeding ground in the Great Australian Bight (off the southern coast) is threatened by the fossil fuel industry.

Good job picking a beautiful habitat, you southern right whales. Gorgeous image via Green Collar Productions.

There are right whales in other parts of the world, but this species is limited to the Southern Ocean.

That's because southern right whales are basically wearing sweaters full time. Get this: The thick layers of blubber needed to survive swimming in the cold waters around Antarctica mean they probably can't swim through tropical ocean zones.

These whales especially need their current nursery in the Great Australian Bight, since they don't have any options otherwise.

The British petrol giant BP is trying to drill for oil in the area used by the whales.

This is the oil company that brought you the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the United States. If you feel a little nervous about the future of these whales, you have a good reason: BP plans to turn the whales' nursery into an oil field.

These waters are too important to endangered whales to risk an oil spill.

Claire Charlton, a southern right whale researcher and marine biology Ph.D. student, explains the situation in the video below and gives us some extraordinary views of these threatened animals.

The nonprofit Wilderness Society is helping get the word out. This special place is at risk of being the next Deepwater Horizon.

To learn more about the nursery of southern right whales, check this page out. Here's a place to donate.

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The Wilderness Society
BXGD / Flickr and Cody Bondarchuk / Twitter

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