The death of a pregnant orca off Vancouver Island became even more tragic on Saturday morning, when it was discovered her teeth were sawed off in the middle of the night.
“I was devastated,” said Jean Rowe, a Courtenay resident who had been keeping an eye on the killer whale, identified as J-32 and nicknamed Rhapsody.
“Having hindsight, we should have set vigil overnight. She needs to have her teeth. It’s just terrible what someone did. Unfortunately, ivory is worth money, people like trophies…but that’s a shame.”
A necropsy was performed on Rhapsody today, in front of a crowd of curious onlookers on Bates Beach, near Courtenay. Her body was discovered floating off Vancouver Island two days ago.
PHOTO GALLERY: Dead orca whale at Bates Beach on Vancouver Island (WARNING: Graphic images)
“It’s a close-knit team we rely on to do these specialized necropsies,” said Paul Cottrell with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “It’s a big job, it’s fast-paced, and the team today was just amazing, they did a super job under the difficult circumstances.”
Rhapsody was just one of 79 orcas in her pod. It’s a small number, and her death could have an impact on the pod’s long-term viability.
“That’s just not a viable population size,” said Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine mammal scientist with the Vancouver Aquarium.
“I wouldn’t say it’s doomed, but in order to grow what it really needs to have is a viable population of females towards the beginning of their reproductive years. There’s a surplus of males in the populations, but these females in these early reproductive years are critical.”
The Department of Fisheries will now analyze the results, with the hope that she will be on display one day at the Royal BC Museum – teeth and all.
“I’m pleading with the person who took them, bring back the teeth,” said Rowe.
© 2014 Shaw Media