On 30th of December Ken Balcomb, a scientist at the Center for Whale Research, observed in a large Pacific Ocean inlet called Puget Sound a newborn orca. Now it has been sighted while it swims off the coast of Washington state. This is a newborn orca in more than two years.
Earlier in December J-32, a 19-year-old pregnant female whale, died around the Strait of Georgia. Balcomb and other scientists pulled her ashore. They performed a necropsy on J-32 and concluded that the whale’s fetus had died. This caused a bacterial infection which killed the mother. Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that “We lost a lot of reproductive potential,” and “The loss of J-32 was a disturbing setback.”
Up until now, the mother of J-50 (this is the newborn orca’s name for the moment) is not known. Ken Balcomb said that J-36, a younger female, is a candidate for being the mother of J-50. Another candidate is J-16, a 43-year-old female. Three of her calves survived and J-50 can be her calf too. On the baby’s dorsal fin and back the scientist said that marks were being seen, suggesting its delivery was assisted by another whale. For the coast of Washington state and Canada it is the 78th orca of the population.
All around the world can be seen groups of killer whales. In the United States and Canada this specific group of killer whales is thought to be an endangered species. Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that the captive display was one side of the problem for this the group. Over half of the population was taken for captive display during the late 1960s and early 1970s (at number of at least 40 killer whales). The population bounced back to almost 100 whales in the 1990s. In the early 2000s it suffered a 20 percent decline. As a result the United States listed the group as endangered in 2005. Brad Hanson added that the precise source of the decline is still undetermined. However, one plausible circumstance is the diminished supply of Chinook salmon. This is the orcas’ central food source, and the largest type of Pacific salmon.
Ken Balcomb wrote in the necropsy report of J-32 that the whale population’s chance to avoid extinction relies on restoring abundant healthy prey supplies. He added that the uncertain point of the rehabilitation may already have closed to an end.
Image Source: The Washington Post