Whale calf dies soon after birth off Canadian coast; orca mother carries dead offspring for days

Whale calf dies soon after birth off Canadian coast; orca mother carries dead offspring for days

Killer whale spotted pushing dead calf for two days

A mother killer whale’s grief has left her carrying her dead calf for four days and separated from the rest of her pod.

The calf – born to a Southern Resident orca called J35 – was alive for just a few hours before it became another grim sign of how endangered this whale species is.

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A research team for the Center for Whale Research sailed to the pair, off the Victoria shoreline in British Columbia, Canada, but could not help the calf.

With endangered SRKW numbers down to 75 individuals, every birth should be a celebration, and the sighting of a female known as J35 swimming with its newborn calf and the rest of her pod near Victoria, British Colombia, earlier this week had researchers heading to the scene to document the important event.

Grieving orca mother carries dead calf for days as killer whales fight for survival

In a press release, the organisation said: “We are saddened to report that a baby Southern Resident killer whale died a short time after it was born near Victoria, British Columbia on July 24, 2018.

“The newborn whale was reported alive and swimming with its mother, J35, and other members of J pod near Clover Point on the Victoria shoreline in mid-morning.

As a sign of support, other members of the mother’s family group have performed a remarkable moonlit ritual to show their solidarity.

Heartbroken killer whale mum carries her babys lifeless body around for days because she cant accept it die

“A Center for Whale Research team was on the water in Haro Strait at the time and immediately responded to photo-document the newborn calf for the long-term census study we maintain for the US and Canadian governments.

“The mother continued supporting and pushing the dead baby whale throughout the day until at least sunset.”

“Unfortunately, by the time the CWR crew arrived on scene, the newborn calf was deceased, and the pod had traveled several miles eastward of the reported sighting location.

The distinctive black-and-white orcas have struggled since they were listed as an endangered species in the U.S. and Canada over a decade ago. Theyre not getting enough of the large, fatty Chinook salmon that make up their main diet. They also face overlapping threats from toxic pollution and noise and disturbances from boats.

“The babys carcass was sinking and being repeatedly retrieved by the mother who was supporting it on her forehead and pushing it in choppy seas toward San Juan Island, USA.

The orcas are distinct from other killer whales because they eat salmon rather than marine mammals. Individual whales are also identified by unique markings or variations in their fin shapes, and each whale is given a number and name. Their movements are closely tracked and photographed by researchers, whale watchers and fans.

“The mother continued supporting and pushing the dead baby whale throughout the day until at least sunset.”

The killer whale, named J35, was seen propping the newborn on her forehead and trying to keep it near the surface of the water off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia, said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist with the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, which closely tracks individual whales.

Grieving orca mom carries dead calf around for days

About 75 per cent of newborn Southern Resident killer whales die in the last 20 years, the Center for Whale Research says, and in the past three years every pregnancy has failed.

The mother killer whale, named J35 by researchers, gave birth Tuesday in what was initially a hopeful moment. Mother and female calf were seen swimming together that morning near Victoria, British Columbia, according to the Washington state-based Center for Whale Research.

This group of orcas have been monitored by Mr Balcombs team since 1976 when there were 70, but then 50 were removed to go to water parks. Twenty years later the population peaked to 100, but now there are only 75 left.

Mother of a dead orca carries it around off the coast of Victoria

The babys carcass was sinking and being repeatedly retrieved by the mother, who was supporting it on her forehead and pushing it in choppy seas, said the Center for Whale Research in a statement. The mother continued supporting and pushing the dead baby whale throughout the day until at least sunset.

J35 was still holding up her calf as of Friday morning, Lisa Moorby, a Center for Whale Research spokesperson, said. Orcas and dolphins have been known to swim their dead calves for as long as a week.

Ken Balcomb, founder and chief scientist for the San Juan Island-based Center for Whale Research, told the New York Times every time the calf slips into the ocean the orca retrieves it.

Mark Leiren-Young: Grieving with the orcas

The calfs death highlights the larger tragedy facing orcas and the ecosystem they rely on in the Salish Sea, a waterway stretching from south of Seattle to north of Vancouver.

An orca carries her dead calf. Photo credit: Weiss/Center for Whale Research An orca has been carrying her dead calf on her nose around the coast of Victoria, British Columbia for days.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest J35 swims with her calfs body. Photograph: Ken Balcomb The Center for Whale Research, which monitors the whale population for the American and Canadian governments, reports that three years have passed since an orca residing in the area has birthed a surviving calf. The survival rate in the past two decades has been 75%. Only 75 killer whales in the endangered group, known as southern resident orcas, remain.

The orcas decline is linked to the failure of another iconic Pacific north-west species, the Chinook salmon. Like the southern resident orcas, several Chinook stocks are listed under the US Endangered Species Act. Orcas have struggled to feed as stocks have declined.

When a calf is born their mother pushes it to the surface so they have to push it up to take its first breath. Its an innate behaviour, said Simon Berrow, Chief Science Officer at the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

This month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists and Washington state fisheries officials announced they had reoriented salmon recovery efforts to save the orcas.

The hormones are switched on to raise the calf and nurture the calf so if it died it would take a while before hormones would start declining. Theyre after going through a 12 month gestation period.

Read more The goal is to apply what weve learned to protect and recover the whales, but were always learning more, Michael Ford of Noaa Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center said recently.

The species of killer whale in the video is the Southern Resident Killer Whale found off the west coast of North America. It considered an endangered species and has a population of less than 100. 

Ken Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research, said orcas required wild salmon, not hatchery-raised fish grown to prop up the commercial and recreational fisheries.

The larger environmental question reflected in the J35 story is that both the USA and Canada must redouble efforts to restore wild salmon … for a food supply for the [southern resident killer whales] in this region, Balcomb said Friday. Hatchery fish are inferior and non-sustainable, and farm fish of course are not available for whale consumption.

Killer whales are long-lived – one Seattle-area orca known as Granny is believed to have lived 106 years before her death in 2016 – but the remaining southern resident orcas must start reproducing again before they grow too old to calf. If they dont, the ageing pods will dwindle for decades before the last orca finally slips beneath the waves.

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