There are three pods of Southern Resident Killer Whales that visit the Salish Sea every year. There’s L Pod, J Pod, and K Pod.
Of the three, K Pod is in the most trouble. It’s the smallest of the pods. And it hasn’t seen a new baby in over a decade.
At least, there wasn’t until now.
A fisher off the Oregon coast spotted a tiny whale swimming with K Pod at the end of April. Wild Orca confirmed the birth a few days later. They’re a non-profit whale research group in the US.
Deborah Giles is the group’s science and research director. “It is so exciting; I am hopeful for her,” Giles told the Seattle Times. She was talking about the new mom, K20, also known as Spock.
“For [the baby] to be a female would be ideal,” she said. “But anybody in K pod is just so special and hopeful.”
Southern Resident Orcas have had mostly male babies in the last little while. But female babies can grow up to be mothers and grandmothers, which keeps the population alive and healthy.
The Center for Whale Research plans to find K Pod and take pictures of the new baby. They want to assess its health and its sex.
But they also know that life is hard for baby whales. They don’t always make it.
“The mortality rate for young calves is very high, but we are pulling for this little whale and hope to see it soon,” the group wrote on Facebook.
Southern Resident’s face three threats. They only eat Chinook salmon, and as we know, these salmon are harder to come by these days. Pollution in the water makes them sick, making it harder for them to reproduce.
Also, loud noise from passing ships makes hunting harder for them. But new regulations say boats have to stay at least 400 metres away from Orcas when they see them.
So keep your fingers crossed that the new K Pod baby grows to a ripe old age.