A Southwest Atlantic humpback mother with her calf (CNN)A key population of humpback whales is in recovery after it was pushed close to extinction by centuries of exploitation, according to a new study. Western South Atlantic humpbacks were reduced to a few hundred in the 1950s, after once totaling a number of 27,000. But efforts to preserve the animal have been rewarded, with numbers now estimated to stand at 25,000 and 93% of their pre-exploitation levels, a study published by the Royal Society reveals. One of the study’s authors, Dr Alex Zerbini, said it demonstrated the successful impact of "conservation efforts." The wider humpback whale species was devastated by whaling between the late 1700s and the mid-1900s — with estimates that 300,000 of the animals were killed. The International Whaling Commission (IWC), the global body overseeing the conservation of whales, recognizes seven types of humpbacks in the Southern Hemisphere. Zerbini, a senior research biologist on marine mammals for 25 years, distinguished between two key periods in whaling. He defined them as "pre-modern" and "modern." "Pre-modern" whaling was more rudimentary in nature, with hunters jumping in boats and chasing after whales with handheld harpoons. Whaling practices from the late 1800s […]

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