The San Diego Zoo does not have whales it its collection.
Humans have hunted whales, mainly for their blubber (oil), for thousands of years. Present-day whalers use the meat as well as the blubber. At first, small-scale hunting did not affect whale populations. But in the last 200 years, humans have built bigger ships and better equipment to hunt and kill larger whales in faraway oceans. Humans have hunted whales for their meat, baleen, oil, and hides.
Whale hunting, pollution, and human development along oceans and rivers have seriously impacted some whale populations. Eleven species are endangered, including the blue whale Balaenoptera musculus, sperm whale Physeter catodon, and humpback whale Magaptera novaeangliae.
The good news is that not all whales are endangered. Of those that are endangered, some populations are at higher risk of extinction than others. One great success story is the gray whale, which was hunted to the brink of extinction twice and now has completely recovered due to protection and conservation efforts.