Another Baby Orca Joins the World’s Most Endangered Killer Whales

That’s good news for the 80 Southern Resident orcas left in the Pacific Northwest.

Whale researchers first spotted newborn baby orca L122 swimming alongside its mother, L91, on Sept. 7. (Photo: Dave Ellifrit)

Sep 8, 2015· 0 MIN READ
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

Whale researchers have spotted another newborn calf among the highly endangered Southern Resident killer whales of the Pacific Northwest.

The Friday Harbor, Washington–based Center for Whale Research announced that a number of whale spotters and scientists had sighted the baby orca swimming with its mother, a whale labeled L91, near Sooke, British Columbia, on Monday. “The new calf is designated L122, and is the fifth new baby to come into the population since December 2014,” the center said in a statement.

The fourth was spotted in April, also in British Columbia waters.

The Southern Residents comprise three distinct pods of killer whales that live year-round along the West Coast between Monterey, California, and Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands. Their numbers have fallen by about 20 percent since the mid-1990s to roughly 80 animals, primarily because chinook salmon, their preferred prey, is also endangered.

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Pollution and habitat disturbance are also problems for these whales.

“We hope this year’s ‘baby-boom’ represents a turn-around in what has been a negative population trend in recent years,” the center stated, especially as no Southern Resident newborns from the 2013–14 breeding season survived.