Whales filmed having whale of a time during lockdown

LE PECQ, FRANCE (AP) — With humans away, the whales will play. In another sign that wild animals are roaming more freely while locked-down people are sheltering indoors from the coronavirus, a maritime patrol has filmed remarkable images of whales powering through Mediterranean waters off the coast of southern France.

The graceful pair of fin whales was filmed on Tuesday in waters off the Calanques national park, a protected reserve of outstanding natural beauty next to the usually bustling but now locked-down Mediterranean port city of Marseille.

Didier Reault, who heads the park board, said it is “very, very rare” for fin whales to be spotted and filmed at such close quarters in the reserve’s waters. The whales usually stay further out in deeper Mediterranean waters but seem to have been drawn in by the lockdown-driven freeze on maritime traffic, water sports, pleasure fishing and pleasure craft, Reault said.

“The absence of human activity means the whales are far more serene, calm and confident about rediscovering their playground that they abandon when there is maritime traffic,” Reault told The Associated Press (AP).

“It is clear that the lockdown of humans is helping nature and biodiversity rediscover their natural spaces,” he said.

“With the lockdown, nothing is happening, it is dead quiet. And animals, be they fin whales or other marine species, are clearly rediscovering their confidence and peace, allowing them to come closer to shore.”

Fin whales are among the largest of the species, weighing as much as 70 tonnes and growing past 20 metres in length. Wild animals venturing into places vacated by humans have also been spotted elsewhere around the world, as hundreds of millions of people are locked down and limiting their movements to try to slow the coronavirus pandemic.