Friday 19 July 2019

Baby boost for endangered orca population

The calf, seen off the coast of San Juan Island in the US’s Pacific Northwest, takes the number of endangered southern resident killer whales to 76.

(Ken Balcomb/Centre for Whale Research/PA)
(Ken Balcomb/Centre for Whale Research/PA)

By Nicolle Okoren, PA

A dwindling population of killer whales has been given a boost with the sighting of a baby.

The calf, spotted by whale-watchers off the coast of San Juan Island in the US’s Pacific Northwest, takes the number of endangered southern resident killer whales to 76.

According to the Centre for Whale Research (CWR), located on the Washington coast, the youngster, a female, was probably born around May 24.

Posted by Center for Whale Research on Monday, July 8, 2019

Photographs taken by a researcher on May 30 off the coast of British Columbia show a foetal fold crease on the calf’s side, indicating she was less than a week old at the time.

The orca population is especially vulnerable since female whales are greatly outnumbered and, particularly in the areas around Washington state, often unhealthy.

This may be due to shifts in diet and feeding as there has been a decrease in Chinook salmon, a prime source of food for the whales, in the area over the past few years.

This was the mother’s second pregnancy within the last 10 years, researchers said. Her previous pregnancy in 2016 was sadly unsuccessful.

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