Scientists are hailing a new finding off Vancouver Island after learning a southern resident killer whale calf, the first born into K-pod in more than a decade, is a girl.
“While every new southern resident killer whale is celebrated, females are especially important as they are essential to the ongoing and future health of this endangered iconic pacific species,” the Department of Fisheries and Oceans posted on social media Oct. 18. “Welcome to the pod little one!”
The orca youngster, named K45, is the first calf born into K-pod, one of the three southern resident killer whale families, since 2011.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists from the marine mammal conservation program identified the calf as female while researching her pod near Swiftsure Bank. The calf is the offspring of the whale known as K20.
The female whale will come as welcome news to many orca observers after some disheartening news surfaced from the Salish Sea last month.
Washington state’s Center for Whale Research in September said the number of remaining orcas dropped by one since last summer. The southern residents now include 73 individuals, according to the centre’s annual whale census, compared to 74 that were tracked as of July 2021.
The southern resident killer whale declines were almost balanced by new births. A J-pod whale gave birth to her second offspring, a female, in February and K45 was born in spring.
The centre said throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, the population of the three southern resident pods was significantly reduced due to whale captures for marine park exhibitions.
Today, the endangered whales face a myriad of threats, including declining stocks of their meal of choice – chinook salmon – along with boat noise, pollution and oil spills, acidifying oceans and the warming climate shifting normal snowmelt patterns.
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