Researchers name newest baby killer whale spotted in B.C. waters

A young southern resident killer whale spotted swimming in waters off the west side of Vancouver Island now has a name.

The Washington state-based Center for Whale Research (CWR) said it dubbed the latest addition to the K pod K45 after staff spotted it in a tight group with other family members at the northeast of Race Rocks, an ecological reserve on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

The center says it received video and photographs of a possible new calf in April and June, and a field biologist is among those who have confirmed its presence, although the sex of the calf is not yet known.

He says K45 is K pod’s first baby since 2011, when K27 gave birth to a calf called K44.

K45 is the first new member of K pod since 2011. (Whale Research Center)

A statement said the calf’s mother was born in 1986 and has two siblings, K27 and K34.

Scientists speculated earlier this year that a baby had been born to a member of group K and said they hoped the whale was female to help the population grow.

A small killer whale is seen swimming with a much larger one in the sea.
The sex of the new baby orca is unknown. (Whale Research Center)

The CWR reports that the survival rate for killer whales in their first year is 37-50%. Research from the University of Washington shows that approximately 69% of pregnancies in southern resident killer whales do not produce a live calf.

The Southern Resident Killer Whale population is critically endangered and numbers have dropped to 70 in recent years. Group K is one of three family groups that make up the endangered population of southern resident killer whales on the west coast, along with groups J and L.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association, which represents 29 whale-watching companies in British Columbia and Washington state, said in January that 2021 was a record year for whale sightings in the Salish Sea.

LISTEN | CBC British Columbia Podcast Episode 1 Killers: J pod on the edge of the abyss:

Killers: J pod on the edge of the abyss35:12Episode 1: « Tapping »

Hope turns to dismay when a new calf from group J dies before the researchers arrive. When Mother J35 carries her corpse for 17 days and 1000 miles, the world wakes up to the plight of southern residents. Some call it grief; others, a message, and the drama of this hot summer becomes a symbol of the struggle to save J pod.

For more on the threats facing Southern Resident Killer Whales and the efforts to save them, check out CBC British Columbia’s original podcast Killers: J pod on the bordk, hosted by Gloria Macarenko.


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