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Jan 152010

10) Beluga whales

These white, round-headed residents of Arctic and sub-Arctic water are friendly and noisy, which makes them easier prey for hunters, including. indigenous Arctic people and zoos around the world.

Courtesy IUCN / Beluga whale © Flickr - Bill Liao

Courtesy IUCN / Beluga whale © Flickr - Bill Liao

These “sea canaries” whistle, squeal, chirp and click to communicate and to find objects.

Climate change is weakening their diet of fish, shrimp and octopuses. Their habitat’s ice is melting and that can mean more attacks by predators, such as the killer whale. Ice that is disappearing also can entrap the beluga.

The biggest danger to the beluga may come from humans, the report said. As ice disappears, ships will begin to navigate into the waters of the Beluga’s habitat. The sociable beluga is very susceptible to being struck by ships and by toxin exposure, the report says. Even its amazing ability to communicate over long distances can be impaired by industrial ship noise and offshore drilling.

The complete impact of global warming on the beluga isn’t clear, but since the population has dropped in the last 100 years, the assumption is that their numbers will continue to decrease, according to the report. They may be able to adapt, but experts aren’t taking that for granted.

International Year of Biodiversity events will begin Jan. 21 and 22 in Paris, where there will be presentations and discussions by decision- and policy-makers, experts and opinion-makers to raise awareness on the biodiversity challenge. The International Year of Biodiversity traveling exhibition will launch on Jan. 21, and later this month (Jan. 25-29) Paris will host a conference to set priorities for science and policy interface, research and funding.

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