Grieving Orca Pod Faces New Problems

Grieving Orca Pod

The grieving orca pod now in British Columbia is facing new problems.

One of its members is dying of starvation.

The four-year-old calf, J50, still travels with her mother.

Mike Ford, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, said J50 is so sick that she could die within a couple of weeks or even days.

And in a rare move scientists are looking at ways to save her life.

A task force composed of Canadian and American experts is trying to figure out what they can do for J50.

And the orca mom whose baby died is still refusing to give it up.

Tahlequah, also known as J35, gave birth to a baby girl on July 24 in the waters around Victoria, B.C.. The calf, the first-born alive to the pod in three years, died shortly after.

The grieving orca pod has received world-wide attention.

Ken Balcomb,  a research scientist with the Center for Whale Research in Washington state says in the last three years all baby orcas have died.

The dwindling chinook salmon stocks means mother orcas are not getting enough food.

And that results in them not producing enough milk for their calves.

And time is running out to deal with the crisis  – there are only 75 orcas left.

“The death of another killer whale puts this iconic population on a dangerous path toward extinction,” said Catherine Kilduff at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If these whales are going to survive, we need to move quickly. Five years from now, it may be too late.”

The federal government limited the chinook salmon fishery this year in an effort to save the species and also banned vessels from getting closer than 200 metres to killer whales in Canadian waters.

But orcas are facing a new problem – chinook salmon runs are contaminated due to potent drug sewage.

And they are picky eaters . Once they have chosen a certain food they won’t change – even to the point where younger orcas will only eat what the rest of the family is eating.

And they are really smart.

Knowledge is passed from one generation to another by the elders.

This knowledge consists of what to eat, where to find food, how to find it, what and who to avoid, and how to catch it.

Orcas live and travel in pods – family units – each with their own vocalisations and calls.


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