In order to accommodate its huge baleens, the Southern right whale has a very large head, comprising up to one quarter of its entire body length. Interesting, these whales are plagued by a parasite, small crustaceans called whale lice. The lice feed off of skin debris from the whale. Southern right whales have twin blow holes, forming a V-shaped spray. They are known to be quite acrobatic, managing to hoist their enormous bodies out of the water for breaching.
These whales can be found living in temperate regions of the Pacific or Atlantic oceans, often staying close to the coastline. They will travel from southern oceans, where they breed in the winter, to the feeding grounds in the Antarctic in the summer months.
Southern right whales got their name from whale hunters, who deemed them the "right" whale to capture. They were slow swimmers and big money makers due to an ample supply of blubber, desirable for a variety of products. Their blubber also served to keep them afloat after being killed, making it easier to retrieve them from the water. Due to extensive hunting, the Southern right whale became endangered. They have been under international protection since 1949, allowing their numbers to recover to some extent. However, due to a later sexual maturity in females (approximately 10 years), as well as a gestation period of one year, recovery is slow. They are still considered an endangered species and are under protection by the Wildlife Conservation Act.
The Southern right whale is listed as Conservation Dependent (LR/cd), the focus of a continuing taxon-specific or habitat-specific conservation programme targeted towards the taxon in question, the cessation of which would result in the taxon qualifying for one of the threatened categories below within a period of five years, on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species