After decades of decline, the Orca population off the Pacific Coast, known as Southern Resident Killer Whales, have something to celebrate.
Four things, to be specific.
“It is really exciting when we consider Southern Resident Killer Whales are endangered, and they do face many threats, so any birth is something to celebrate,” said Tessa Danelesko, a Vancouver Aquarium Whale Research.
The three pods, known as J, K, and L, comprise the SRKW population. They’re among the most endangered orca populations in the world, have seen their population cut in half in the last 50 years – and until last winter, hadn’t produced any new orcas in three years.
“We’re excited, but we’re also holding our breath,” says Danelesko.
One reason that they’re holding their breath? Approximately 50 per cent of orcas die within their first year – meaning it won’t be until the pods return to the coast, closer to next spring, that researchers will know if all survived.
“These calves aren’t there yet, we’re certainly holding our breath, but when we’re about at the first year mark we’ll slowly start to let it out,” says Danelesko.
WATCH: Michael Harris, with the Pacific Whale Watch Association, explains why it’s remarkable four newborn southern killer whales have survived for more than six months.