top of page

Tohorā Southern
Right Whales


(Eubalaena australis)

Southern Right Whales are found throughout the Southern Hemisphere and are a native migrant to New Zealand. They are typically black in colour, have large paddle-shaped flippers and have a large head covered in callosities. Follow along to learn more about Tohorā below.

Southern Right Whales are slow swimmers and also very acrobatic! They are easy to identify by their unique callosities on their heads. Callosities are large, white, rough growths that can be made up of parasitic worms, whale lice and barnacles. The callosities on a southern right are unique to each southern right making them easy to identify and track their movements. They also has a unique V blow, with the water rising in two columns to a height of 5m.





Throughout this page you'll find some fun activities and resources you can explore

at home with your whānau and friends.

Some of these resources have been put together with the help of our fantastic local organisations.

A huge thank you to those people who have helped put these together for us,

we appreciate your support!

Don't forget to share your activities with us, either tag us on social media

or email them to us at

Screenshot 2023-06-24 125105.png

Image Credit - Andrea Izzotti

Some tribes see whales as the descendants of Tangaroa, the god of the ocean. Whales possess a tapu (sacred) significance to Maori as both supernatural beings and as harbingers of personal change and spiritual growth.

When whales appeared on long journeys by waka across the Pacific ocean, they were seen as a sign that the iwi should settle in that place. They were also seen as benevolent guardians when they swam alongside the waka, guiding the way through tumultuous Pacific storms towards the safety of land.


Te Ao


 Art - Create Whale Watching Binoculars


Have fun making your own whale watching binoculars. Go out and explore the coastline and see what you can spot in the sea.

Whale Watching Binoculars_edited.jpg
Click the image to
download the PDF!


& Diet

Southern Rights feed on zooplankton in the cold nutrient-rich Southern Ocean. They are skim feeders and swim with their mouths open for long periods of time, filtering krill and  plankton through their baleen plates. Baleen plates are made of keratin, the same substance which makes up our hair or fingernails. 


CRAFT - Tohorā Snacks

Southern Right's Snacks

Have some fun making an upcycled southern right whale from paper roll!  Don't forget her baleen!

  Give your whale a name and make her some tasty snacks.

This craft is to show how the large baleen plates in a baleen whale's mouth help to catch all their food!

Don't forget to share your Tohorā with us, we would love to know its name. 

Tohorā & her snacks.jpg
Click the image to download the PDF sheet!

Tohorā live and migrate in the Southern Ocean. They are found in the South Atlantic between June and December. They migrate from the icy Southern Ocean to their breeding grounds in the South Atlantic along the African coastline.


Click on the image to watch a video about how a group of Southern Right whales were discovered again in New Zealand, at the brink of extinction.



Tohorā GAMES 

Grab some of your friends or whānua and have a go at these fun Tohorā games and activities.

How Baleen Works


This activity aims to demonstrate how baleen plates work and how whales uses them to eat.

Click on the image to download the instructions.


If you give this game a go with your class or some friends take a pic or video and share it with us!

Screenshot 2024-06-26 174602.png
DSC_0099 (1).JPG

How Long is a Southern Right?


This activity aims to demonstrate how large/long a southern right is. Get your friends and family together, using the cards, measure out and compare the different sizes of baleen whales and toothed marine mammals. 

Click on the image to download the fact cards.


Southern Right whales are mammals and give birth to live young, just like us humans. A baby whale is called a calf. 

Females usually give birth to their first calf when they are eight to ten years old. Female Southern Rights only produce a calf every 3-5 years. 



ACTIVITY - Baleen whale or Toothed marine mammal?

Test your knowledge - download the cards below and see if you can guess which are baleen whales and which are toothed marine mammals.

Screenshot 2024-06-26 200714.png
Click the image to download the cards!

Ever wonder how the Southern Right Whales stays warm while swimming in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean ??

Well they have blubber - a fatty substance below their skin that helps to keep them warm. 

Check out this neat video from SciShow Kids that demonstrates how blubber works. 

Have a go at it your self - Did the blubber keep your hand warm? 


Crazy Facts!

Other Southern Right Whale Resources 

Below you will find links to other Tohorā resources, click the images to take you to the websites. Check them out!

NOAA Fisheries

For more Tohorā information click the image below.

Tohorā The Southern Right Whale

by Ned Barraud

tohora book_edited_edited.png

Department of Conservation

For more Southern Right whale information click the DOC image below.


Southern Right Whales were hunted to near extinction in the 18-1900s. In 1920 there were only 400 left on the planet. The Souhthern Right whale gets it name from being the "right" whale to hunt.  This was because they are so slow moving and are very buoyant in the water. Since whaling become illegal in NZ in 1978, NZ has made large efforts to help protect our whales and help bring the numbers back. Current threats to Tohorā include: predators, climate change, net entanglement, large boat strikes and ocean pollution. 

Check out the next Tohorā Fact to find out how you can help!




What YOU can do!

So... How can you help protect our whales? Glad you asked!


Firstly, help to reduce our plastic waste. Plastic can end up in our oceans and harm not only our whales but other marine species. 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse and Rot where possible! 

Keep an eye out for a beach cleanup near you and lend a helping hand.


Image Credit - Envirohub Beach Clean Up event 

What can you do if you see a stranded whale?

Reduce plastic use!

If you'd like to be prepared to help in a whale stranding you can attend Marine Mammal Medic Course run by Project Jonah.

Click HERE  to find out what DOC does when there is a stranding.


Image Credit - Department of Conservation NZ

Act safely on the water around marine mammals

When out on a boat there are ways you can safely observe any marine life you come across, especially whales and other marine mammals.

Click HERE to learn how you can safely share our coast lines with our beautiful taonga of the ocean. 

Go Spot a Southern Right!


KORI's annual Great Kaikoura Whale Count

Each winter, around June/July, the Kaikōura Ocean Research Institute holds an annual whale count, where they count as many whales migrating past Kaikōura as they can. You can even volunteer to head along and help them out and be a part of the action!

Click on the KORI logo alongside to go to their website and find out more.



Tohorā Whale Gallery 
Images from our Southern Right Whale events

2024 Whale Day

bottom of page