Spotlight on the mighty blue whale as ‘Hope’ steals the show at the Natural History Museum

From 14 July, a 25-metre, 3-tonne blue whale skeleton will welcome visitors to London’s Natural History Museum (NHM), as the museum replaces ‘Dippy’ the dinosaur skeleton that’s dominated the main hall for over 100 years.

The unveiling of the new exhibit is creating quite a stir and it’s great to see people getting so excited about these majestic animals. This particular blue whale washed up on the shores of Wexford in southeast Ireland in 1891 and is being given the name "Hope" as a "symbol of humanity's power to shape a sustainable future".

Blue whales are the largest mammals to have ever lived on this planet and have a lifespan of up to around 110 years - the Wexford blue whale was thought to be around 10-15 years old when it died, making the skeleton at the NHM around 136 years old!

One of the reasons that the museum has made this change is to teach people about living science and issues that are relevant to the modern world, rather than focussing on old fossils. Blue whales are perhaps one of the most relevant living examples of how humanity has impacted the natural world. During the commercial whaling era, these whales were almost driven to the brink of extinction. Population numbers around the world crashed from over 350,000 to just a few hundred.

Since commercial whaling was banned in 1986, and thanks to global conservation efforts, blue whale numbers have steadily increased and there are now estimated to be around 20,000. However, their troubles aren’t over yet. This is still only a tiny fraction of pre-whaling numbers and today, blue whales face more threats than ever before. For example, collisions with ships, or ship strikes as they are known, kill many of these huge mammals every year. And ocean noise is drowning out their long-distance communication calls, which are vital for them to find mates across ocean basins.

IFAW is working to protect blue whales, other marine life and the marine environment from these and the many threats they face today – we wish the NHM every success with their new exhibit and hope it inspires many people to help protect these wonderful creatures for many generations to come.

--SL

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation