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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Semiahmoo Peninsula girls to host Black Lives Matter fundraiser

‘We are doing this because the world is full of systemic racism,’ organizer Sabine Lapointe said

Community fruit harvest program returns to Surrey, White Rock

Sources will send a team to harvest fruit trees, so less goes to waste

East White Rock crosswalk, speed bumps proposed

Report on costs and implications requested by council

Semi and BMW collide on South Surrey highway

At least one person to hospital, both vehicles sustained significant damage

White Rock dogs-on-promenade survey shows majority approval

City figures suggest that off-season program could continue

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

Friends, family remember victim of Langley possible triple-homicide fire at memorial

Memorial held for one the of three found dead at a house fire in Langley Meadows last month

Fraser Valley Bandits, CEBL bringing pro sports back later this month

Abbotsford-based basketball team kicks off CEBL Summer Series on July 26

Family and friends mark birthday of teen who died after being discovered in Langley park

Carson Crimeni suffered an apparent drug overdose, his final moments broadcast on social media

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

Most Read

l -->