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

Andrea Rondeau column: Holiday weekend delivers letters

It occurred to me that this was just giving me a taste of what Santa must go through every year.

Sarah Simpson Column: Kids’ Christmas is going to the dogs

I enjoy long weekends because of the extra family time they offer,… Continue reading

Duncan Lions and friends step up with irrigation system for Providence Farm kitchen garden

Duncan Lions Club members were busy out at Providence Farm, both having… Continue reading

Rare setback for Cowichan 49ers

Masters team suffers unusual loss to Castaways Juniors

Cowichan Cougars battle back to tie Vic West

Change of formation allows Cougars to draw even

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

B.C. First Nations drop out of court challenge, sign deals with Trans Mountain

Upper Nicola Band says deal represents a ‘significant step forward’

VIDEO: B.C. man trapped under ATV for days shows promise at Victoria hospital

Out of induced coma, 41-year-old is smiling, squeezing hands and enjoying sunshine

Most Read