Tumor Concerns Around Migaloo the Albino Humpback Whale

Tumor Concerns Around Migaloo the Albino Humpback Whale

While making his annual migration through the Pacific, the infamous solid albino humpback whale, Migaloo, was recently seen again returning to the waters of the Queensland area. Observers spotted the white whale which seemed to be moving in a southeast direction from Snapper Island and may be headed for the reef. Although Migaloo seems to be in good shape and is behaving normally and displaying all of the normal signs of a healthy and active humpback whale, some concerns have been raised about a lump spotted on the whale's head that could pose a potential threat to his health.

Greg Kaufman, from the Pacific Whale Foundation, released a statement about the whale's condition citing a noticeable lump on the side of Migaloo's head that they fear may be a tumor. Tumors are commonly found on such animals with albinism which is a disorder in which there is a partial or complete lack of melanin, the pigment that accounts for coloration of skin or hair. And in the case of Migaloo, he is completely without color and is the only known humpback whale in the world to be completely white.

Although a tumor is suspected, from all signs thus far, Migaloo seems to be well, showing no other signs of illness or concern; although, there is also some concern over possible skin cancers due to the lack of protection from the sun that would have been provided by normal levels of melanin found in other animals including whales.

Migaloo was first sighted and photographed by Greg Kaufman in 1991 and was last spotted in the region back in 2007. At first sighting, Migaloo was believed to be between the ages of 3 to 5 years old. He received the name Migaloo from the local aboriginals who gave him the name meaning “white fella”.

To protect the male humpback whale from curiosity seekers and others who may cause the whale harm or distress, the governments of New South Wales and Queensland have enacted legislation to protect Migaloo with a 1600 feet (500 meters) safety zone that forbids boats from getting too near to the whale. Due in part to this need for regulation, very little in known about Migaloo's regular habits so it is unknown at this time whether or not there has been a possible mating.

Researchers will continue to monitor Migaloo's progress and will watch him for any signs of distress or illness as he travels through the near by waters.