New Orca calf spotted with J pod

Birth is first since 2016

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The Center for Whale Research is announcing potential good news with the birth of a calf to the southern resident killer whales’ J pod.

The centre reported Friday that it had received photographs of a calf accompanying J pod, taken by The Whale Centre outfit off Tofino the previous day.

Whale Centre co-owner Jennifer Steven reported in a blog post that she and her partner John Forde had heard orcas were nearby. After going out to check the scene, they determined that the whales were J pod.

“All whale watching companies made the call to stop watching the whales once they knew they were in fact SRKW,” Steven wrote.

“We took a few photos of the whales to send to DFO and the Centre for Whale Research. John noticed a brand new calf with J31. We were both really excited to see the calf was very orange and still had fetal folds.”

She added their community normally sees J pod once a year, the last time being on June 8, 2018.

Researchers at the Center for Whale Research have confirmed the calf is a new addition, and based on its colouration and body condition was likely born some time in the last one to three weeks. The calf was photographed in association with several J pod females, including J31, J46, and J40. More field observations are needed to confirm the identity of the calf’s mother, the researchers said.

The endangered southern resident killer whale population had no documented successful births since 2016, prior to this year. The new calf marks the second birth in 2019, following L124 in January. 

Since 1998, only around 25 per cent of SRKW newborns have survived.

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