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Ninth orca whale calf born to local pods, but another whale dies

By Marcus Hondro     Jan 21, 2016 in Environment
There's a stampede of orca whales being born into the 3 southern resident pods of B.C. and Washington State with the latest birth confirmed this week. But the news isn't all good as a distressed mother was seen with her deceased calf.
Orca whale birth
NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center confirmed another killer whale calf — orcas are also called killer whales — has been born to J pod, making it the ninth calf born to the pods in a little over 12 months; the eighth just came in the middle of December.
It brings the population of J, K and L pod to 85.
Despite these births the pods are still considered endangered thanks to food storages (Chinook salmon is the primary food source) pollution and noise. But the births are nonetheless being celebrated by marine biologists who study and keep track of the cetaceans.
Michael Harris is the Executive Director of the Whale Watch Association and he told media these births are happy news but that the whales still have challenges ahead.
"The Southern Resident orca ‘baby boom’ is starting to sound like a long, sustained rumble and it certainly is music to our ears,” Harris said. "This population has turned a corner, no question, but in no way is it out of the woods."
High mortality rate
The NOAA Fisheries announced the new calf on their Facebook page, also announcing a sad scene witnessed by some of their staff members in the field.
"We’re excited to announce...a new calf (discovered) during a research survey with J pod yesterday, January 18, 2016, in Puget Sound," the NOAA wrote. "Photos...confirmed this is a new calf, designated J55. The calf seems to be just a few days old and in good condition.
"This good news comes with some sad news, however," they added. "On the same trip we observed J31, a 20 year-old female who has never successfully calved, pushing around a deceased neonate calf. It is estimated that at least 50% of calves do not reach their first birthday, so unfortunately this sad event is not unusual."
It is the first time there has been so many calves born since 1977 when the southern resident pods also experienced nine births. Since then there have been but, on average, three births per year.
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