The latest addition – a calf named L124– is the second successful birth for 32-year-old mom, L77 Matia, who appears in good health. (Photo Melissa Pinnow/Centre of Whale Research)

New orca calf in Salish Sea ‘healthy and active’

Birth cause for celebration but things still dire genetically, expert says

A new calf, born three weeks ago into a group of critically endangered southern resident orcas, appears “healthy and active,” leading experts to be cautiously optimistic.

The latest addition – a calf named L124 – is the second successful birth for 32-year-old mom, L77 Matia, who appears in good health. She also has a 7-year-old daughter named L119 Joy, having lost one calf previously.

The Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbour, Wash., reported seeing the new calf Jan. 11. While the gender has not been confirmed, it was “bouncing around” between its mother, sister and three other orcas in the pod. Many of the males in L-pod, both young and old, were “especially playful.”

The birth is cause for celebration; however, Dr. Lauren McWhinnie, marine biologist and researcher at University of Victoria, says things are still dire genetically.

This the first successful birth in three years for the resident orcas, made up of 75 members in the L, J and K pods.

Last July, a calf in the J-pod died shortly after birth and his mother J35 garnered international attention for what scientists have called a mourning ritual, involving carrying her dead calf over 1,500 kilometres over a period of nearly three weeks.

RELATED: Calf born to endangered Pacific Northwest orcas

The survival rate for calves dramatically increases after the two-year mark.

“There are few reproductive females left and we are likely to lose another two whales this year,” says McWhinnie. “The odds are currently stacked against them. They are by no means out of the woods.”

One of the whales struggling is a “post-reproductive” female in J-pod.

“She is the matriarch. It is devastating as grandmothers take on a very important role in the pod,” says McWhinnie.

The second orca known to be sick and one researchers fear could die within months, is a male in K-pod.

“His mom died a couple years ago and his health has since been in decline,” says McWhinnie, explaining that calves stay with their mothers for life.

While all three pods of the southern resident orcas aren’t often seen all together in the Salish Sea, McWhinnie says they congregated together shortly after the recent birth.

“I don’t want to anthropomorphize, but you can’t help but feel like they came together to celebrate the birth,” McWhinnie says.

RELATED: More Puget Sound orcas predicted to die by summer

McWhinnie reminds people to give the orcas a wide berth, saying researchers in Washington and B.C. have both pulled back over recent years and are just doing non-invasive research so as not to add stress to the struggling group.


 

keri.coles@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RCMP renew request for help finding missing Nakusp man

Christopher Sanford was reported missing Aug. 5

Updated: Early-morning fire near Trail destroys travel trailer and van

An arson-trained RCMP investigator will examine the scene

Anglican churches in Nelson, Balfour, Kaslo to marry same-gender couples

Rev. Jeff Donnelly says he’d love to host LGBTQ weddings

Update: Two women injured after motorcycle accident in Trail

The collision occurred Wednesday night just after 9 p.m.

Pregnant Kootenay teachers fight to change compensation rules

Risk to unborn babies not recognized by WorkSafeBC

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

Most Read