A humpback whale named “Stumpy” after he lost his tail as a baby in an apparent killer whale attack has been sighted again years later on an epic journey along Australia’s coast.
Stumpy was spotted playing off eastern Queensland’s Sunshine Coast by whale watchers aboard a boat named for the late TV environmentalist and “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin, the national AAP news agency reported.
Allan Short, skipper of the Australia Zoo’s boat “Steve’s Whale One,” said he last saw the tailless whale as a yearling in 2001 in the region’s Hervey Bay, where Antarctic-based humpbacks travel in the breeding season.
Scratch marks on Stumpy’s side suggest he was injured in an attack by a killer whale, Short said.
“When we first saw Stumpy in Hervey Bay in 2001 we thought for sure he wouldn’t survive without his tail,” he said.
“It’s a 20 000-kilometre return journey when they migrate and that is an amazing feat for a whale without a tail.”
Stumpy appeared healthy as he played alongside other whales on their annual migration to warmer tropical water to breed, he said.
Steve Irwin, who became internationally famous for his risky stunts with dangerous animals, was killed by a stingray barb in September 2006 while filming on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
His American wife Terri is now in charge of his Australia Zoo, and their 10-year-old daughter Bindi, is a wildlife television star in her own right.