Monday, September 28

Orca Who Carried Dead Calf Gives Birth Again

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Here’s a story with a happy ending, from The New York Times:

The orca, identified by researchers as J35 and also known as Tahlequah, became a symbol in 2018 of the plight of the Southern Resident whales, which were 88 in number when they were listed as endangered in 2005 and have dwindled further since then. The birth of the new orca, which was seen for the first time by researchers on Saturday, brings the population to 73.

“It’s a bit of a nail-biter right now,” said Dr. Deborah Giles, a whale researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology. “I can’t help but be thrilled that she had this baby and this baby didn’t die right away. Everybody is worried and on pins and needles, wondering if this calf is going to make it.”

The Southern Resident population of orcas, which are also known as killer whales, includes three pods that largely stay near Washington State and British Columbia. The whales have been struggling to endure a variety of troubles — a scarcity of high-quality prey to eat, noise pollution from ships and boats in their habitat, and toxic pollutants that make their way up the food chain to them. Many of the population’s pregnancies fail, and about 40 percent of the calves who are born die in their first year.

 

Ken Balcomb, founding director of the Center for Whale Research, documented the newest calf, listed now as J57, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates the Olympic Peninsula of Washington from Vancouver Island.

“The baby looked very robust and lively, so I have good expectations for this one surviving,” Mr. Balcomb said. Read more:

 

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