Rare Whale 'Migaloo' Could Be in Danger of Skin Cancer

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By Afza Fathima | June 26, 2014 1:59 PM EST

Migaloo, a rare white humpback whale migrating north along Australia's east coast, is being monitored for skin cancer by experts as red marks were found on the whale. The marks were noticed on the dorsal fin. Apart from that, yellow discoloration was noticed, but that is being passed off as an algae bloom by top whale researchers.

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Young children are fascinated by whales and Migaloo has got everyone's attention currently. Children are getting a close-up view of an Orca killer whale in the animal theme park Sea World in California March 19, 2014

Oskcar Peterson, founder of the White Whale Research Centre, said that Migaloo's rare skin condition makes him especially susceptible to the effects of sunlight.

"It may well be just a growth, or it could be skin cancer, we're just not too sure at the moment," he said. "He did the entire length of New South Wales in a week. He's only 28-years-old, so he's still a young fellow and he's a very powerful swimmer. So he's healthy in that regard, but we've just got to check out his skin. There's a lot of concern about him, that's for sure."

Pictures of Migaloo that were captured in Sydney was examined by the whale expert from Southern Cross University, Professor Peter Harrison, who has been tracking Migaloo since 1996. He said that he is keen to compare other images captured of Migaloo.

He explained, "It will be very interesting to see whether or not this redness has disappeared, or whether or not it has obviously become more inflamed which would indicate some sort of infection and I guess there is a possibility that it might be early stages of cancer as well."

Harrison had mentioned that there was some scratching in that area, and it could well be a case of Migaloo having bumped against something or other on his journey north. He explained that it looked like a little tissue bruising, there's some other discolouration nearby and that most people are curious as to whether or not this might be a preliminary form of skin cancer, but at this stage of course they simply couldn't tell.

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(Photo: REUTERS / Mike Blake)
Young children are fascinated by whales and Migaloo has got everyone's attention currently. Children are getting a close-up view of an Orca killer whale in the animal theme park Sea World in California March 19, 2014
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