Orca that carried her dead calf for 17 days pregnant again
Drone images indicate that J35, a Southern Resident killer whale who carried her dead calf for 17 days in 2018, is pregnant once again: (NOAA, SR3)
VICTORIA -- Multiple orcas belonging to the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population are pregnant, according to ocean researchers.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and SR3 (SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research) say that as of July, orcas from all three Southern Resident killer whale pods are currently pregnant.
Among the pregnant orcas is J35, also known as Tahlequah, who made international headlines in 2018 when she carried her dead calf across the ocean for 17 days.
Researchers have determined that the orcas are pregnant by using drones to track killer whale body condition and growth.
This month, the aerial images have shown that several of the orcas are pregnant.
“Quantitative measurements will be generated for all individuals encountered, but obvious shape changes in some individuals have revealed a number of pregnant whales from all three pods,” said SR3 in a release Sunday.
However, researchers say that an orca baby boom is far from guaranteed this year.
According to SR3, Southern Resident killer whales have a high reproductive failure rate, largely linked to low access to nutrition and one of their main food sources, Chinook salmon.
With just 73 of these types of orcas remaining, however, any birth is a welcome addition to the population.
This summer, the federal government announced an expansion to a whale-only foraging zone near Vancouver Island.
The expanded foraging zone, located in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, will restrict commercial and recreational salmon fishing from taking place in the area between Aug. 1 to Oct. 31.