December 31, 2014 7:53 pm
Updated: December 31, 2014 11:49 pm

A New Year’s Baby for endangered Southern Resident orcas

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VANCOUVER – It’s a New Year’s baby for a community of endangered Southern Resident orcas.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) says the orca, known as J16 (Slick), has been seen with a new calf named J50. It is the sixth known baby for Slick and at age 42, means she is now tied for the oldest orca to give birth since the Orca Survey began in 1976. Three of her babies are still alive.

The community is now at 78 individuals.

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The PWWA says this news is a cause for celebration, especially after the death of J32 and her unborn calf earlier this month.

“Happy New Year Southern Residents! This couldn’t come at a better time,” said Michael Harris, executive director of the PWWA, which represents 32 operators in Washington and B.C. “Of course we have an extremely high infant mortality rate among wild orcas, so when we find these babies we always pass cigars out with one hand while crossing our fingers with the other. About 50 per cent of these babies don’t make it through their first year. That means we have half a chance that J50 will survive. But that’s half more than we had last week.”

“It’s going to be a tough slog for this little whale, but if anyone can mother a baby through the perils ahead, it’s J16 and the rest of J-Pod,” added Harris. “We’ve got a very experienced mama and a pod that knows how to make its way through winter in the Sound and Straits. They’re the most urban of these most-urban orcas, and some would say the most resilient of the three pods. There’s an awesome support network awaiting this calf. We’ll wait until we see the baby again this summer happy and healthy before we pop the cork on the New Year’s champagne, but this is great news.”

For all those who want to help the whales, they can become a Member of The Center for Whale Research at www.whaleresearch.com.

WATCH: Raw video of J16 swimming with her new calf

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