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Calf is born to endangered orca killer whale pod off B.C. coast

By Marcus Hondro     Jan 4, 2015 in Environment
The Center for Whale Research in Washington state said that a new orca calf has been born to the endangered J-pod. The calf, J-50, may have been born in the past few days, though the exact details are not known. They are not certain who the mother is.
Endangered J-Pod
It was first seen in Swanson Channel off of Pender Island in the Gulf Islands. "The calf was born sometime recently," Ken Balcomb, a scientist with the Center for Whale Research, told CBC News. "We estimate a couple days, maybe a week."
The southern resident J-pod, which travels in waters of the U.S. and Canada, is considered an endangered pod and has had a number of deaths in the past few years. As the CBC noted, with a current population of 78 the number of whales in the pod is at its lowest in a decade.
"If this baby survives, we're a little bit on the road to recovery of this population," Balcomb said. "We need to have four babies a year survive in order to fill in all the ones that have died in the past few years."
There was another pregnant mother in this pod but it died, possibly due to starvation. There is a shortage of Chinook salmon in these waters, and the Chinook are the main staple in the orca diet.
Orca calf had difficult birth
Some speculation among scientists at the center is that the mother may not be who they first thought it was. They thought mom was J-16 but now scientists think J-16, who the calf has been seen alongside, may be the grandmother.
They believe the birth may have been difficult — there are physical marks on J-50 suggesting that is so — and that J-16, who is 42 and old for birthing, may be watching the calf until Mom is stronger.
The speculation is that J-36, who is J-16's 16-year-old daughter, may be the mother. She is with the pod but mostly on her own. The calf has spent some time visiting her. It's not uncommon, Balcomb said, for other females in the pod to help care for a newborn.
He said the newborn, J-50, looks to be healthy.
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