Delphi and Leucas

From the bulletin Whale Portraits, July 28, 2016

This week, we present two young belugas that have just been “entrusted” to Mr. Justin Trudeau and Mr. Philippe Couillard with the words: “If we care for them, Delphi and Leucas could live until 2080!”

Leucas is recognizable by the gray patch he shows on his left flank. Our first encounter goes back to the summer of 2008, at which time he was gray. Seen every summer since then, he was nearly all white in 2015. Belugas fade from gray to white between the ages of 12 and 16. Leucas was thus born around the year 2000. His associations suggest that he is a male. He has now reached the age of consolidating his social network. In summer, bulls are split into three networks of companions. Two of these occupy the mouth of the Saguenay and the head of the Laurentian Channel, while the third network frequents the head of the Laurentian Channel and the downstream portion of the Estuary. Soon we will know what sector Leucas has chosen and which network he has joined.

We recognize Delphi by the gray spot and white dots that cover her dorsal crest. Her small size and dark colouring at the time of our first observation in 2006 suggest that she was born around 2004. Her regular presence alongside Miss Frontenac, Athéna, Blanche and Céline, leads us to believe that Delphi is a female of the Saguenay community. Delphi will soon be old enough to have her first calf. Within these communities, associations vary according to age or reproductive status. How Delphi’s story unfolds will help us better understand the social and reproductive lives of belugas.

A symbolic and political adoption

In recent years, thousands of Quebec and Canadian citizens, businesses and municipalities have “adopted” belugas, thereby demonstrating their commitment to the St. Lawrence and its inhabitants, and offering their support to efforts to better understand and better protect these animals.

Concerned about the proliferation of port development projects in critical beluga habitat, Robert Michaud, GREMM scientific director and coordinator of the St. Lawrence Beluga Project, entrusted Delphi and Leucas to the Honourable Philippe Couillard, Quebec Premier and Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, to convey the urgency of acting to protect their population.