NEWS

Calf born in endangered southern resident orca pod

12/30/2014 11:51 EST | Updated 03/01/2015 05:59 EST
A calf has been born in the endangered southern resident orca population. 

The Centre for Whale Research confirmed the birth of a new calf J-50, which it believes is a few days old, to the mother, J-16. 

Ken Balcomb, a senior scientist with the Centre for Whale Research, said the calf was spotted off in the Gulf Island, off South Pender Island in Swanson Channel.

"The calf was born sometime recently," he said. "We estimate a couple days, maybe a week."

The Vancouver Aquarium says a successful birth isn't counted until the calf passes the one-year mark. 

Good news for endangered population

However, this is good news for the pod, whose population has been the lowest in a decade this year. With this latest birth, the population of southern resident killer whales is now 78.

"If this baby survives, we're a little bit on the road to recovery of this population," Balcomb said.  

"We need to have four babies a year survive in order to fill in all the ones that have died in the past few years."

In December, the pod lost a pregnant mother, who likely starved to death. 

Earlier this month, whale researchers said they believe the first baby orca born in the Salish Sea in two years has died and they blamed it on a shortage of Chinook salmon.

Research conducted in recent years has shown that southern resident orcas depend almost entirely on Chinook salmon for sustenance, with a diet of Chum salmon during fall months when Chinook are especially scarce, according to the Orca Network.

Watch raw video of the calf J-50 (near the 20-second mark.

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