We are often asked about why whales may live so long, especially past breeding age. For most species, I am afraid that once you have had your offspring, Kaput!- you are no longer necessary to the species.
For some species, especially social creatures we do see individuals surviving past the menopause and playing a role in that society. For humans we have grandparents, but this is also true of whales.
Over the last few years it’s become increasingly clearer that older individuals play an important role. The elders of a social group have the invested knowledge and experience that needs to be passed onto the youngsters. In orca groups whilst many creatures reach sexual maturity it may be several years later that they actually reproduce, and this is because? Because they need to learn how to be adults, -what is acceptable behaviour in such circumstances.
There has now been published data on what WDCS has been observing (and saying to anyone that wanted to listen) and I look forward to this area of work having a real impact on conservation policy.