Until the early 20th century, the blue whale was abundant in almost all oceans. For more than 40 years, however, it was hunted by whalers almost to extinction; the international community declared it a protected species only in 1966.
According to a 2002 report, there are currently 5,000 to 12,000 specimens around the world, divided into at least five groups. On the basis of more recent research carried out on the pygmy subspecies it is hypothesized that these numbers, however, have been a little too underestimated.
Before hunting, the largest population was the Antarctic, with around 239,000 strong (estimates range from 202,000 to 311,000). Now only much smaller populations remain (of about 2,000 individuals each), concentrated in the northeastern Pacific and in the Southern and Indian oceans.
Two smaller populations meet in the North Atlantic and at least two others in the Southern Hemisphere. But finally there is some good news. The blue whales have returned to the Atlantic coast after an absence of over 40 years.
The first sighting dates back to 2017, off the north-west coast of Spain. A second sighting took place in 2018, and a third the following year. And again in 2020, when both specimens were detected in the same area. The latest sighting was located near the Cíes Islands, off the coast of Pontevedra, also in Galicia.
According to experts, it is still unclear whether climate change is leading these mammals to change their habits and return to the places where they have been hunted to near extinction.
Kenya: the country's fauna at risk
Five animal species have been classified as critically endangered, according to a Kenya Wildlife Institute survey of wildlife conditions in Kenya.
These species have a probability of extinction of at least 50% within ten years or three generations according to the UICN criteria of the United Nations. The worsening of the general picture depends on various factors, such as the intensification of human settlements, mainly due to the increase in population in urban areas, remains the largest of the risk factors observed, reports the government document.
One cause is to be found in the constant demographic increase that has affected the country of the Horn of Africa in recent years. furthermore, climate change, the consequent scarcity of resources and poaching, have for some time fueled the threat to the national fauna.
To this is added the progressive reduction of the habitat, eroded by the infrastructural plans. Najib Balala, Kenyan Minister of Tourism, said: "This will require more attention if we are to avert the danger of isolating wildlife in pockets of protected areas."
A concrete example concerns the black antelope: according to the latest available data, in fact, there are fewer than one hundred specimens still present on the national territory. To the alarming bulletin resulting from the census conducted between May and July, the first in the history of Kenya to affect the entire national territory, there are nine other endangered species, including elephants, lions and cheetahs.
The conservation status of giraffes has also exceeded the critical threshold, confirming a drastic decline that comes from afar: less than 40% of specimens in the last 30 years.