It has been 20 years since teams from British Columbia and Washington State worked together to rescue an orphaned orca named Springer.
She was the first orca to have been captured and then successfully re-integrated into her pod, and the anniversary of her rescue will be celebrated with events in Telegraph Cove from July 22 to 24.
Springer is now thriving with two calves of her own – Spirit born in 2013 and Storm born in 2017 – but it was a rough start for the whale.
In 2002, she was spotted alone and emaciated in Puget Sound.
Experts were called in and, after several months of monitoring her deteriorating condition, Springer was transported from Puget Sound in June of that year and taken by jet catamaran to the north end of Vancouver Island. She was then placed into a net pen at a research station, where she was rehabilitated.
She was released in the area when her pod made contact and although not immediately, Springer was eventually re-adopted by her family.
“Springer’s story is an inspiration on many levels,” said Paul Spong of OrcaLab. “It proved that an orphan orca, alone and separated from her family, can be rehabilitated and returned to a normal productive life with her family and community; and it showed that disparate parties with diverse interests can come together and work together for the common goal of helping one little whale.”
“The Springer success story continues to be an inspiration for all of us working on conservation in the Salish Sea,” said Lynne Barre, the lead for orca recovery at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast regional office in Seattle.
“The partnerships created during Springer’s rescue provide a strong foundation for international cooperation as well as coordination between government, state, tribal, and non-profit groups to benefit both Northern and Southern Resident killer whales.”
The public is invited to an event called Celebrate Springer at the Whale Interpretive Center (WIC) in Telegraph Cove on July 23. There will be a presentation and team discussion at 11:30 a.m., kids’ activities and an eco-fair featuring marine-focused non-profit organizations from 11 to 4 p.m. Admission to the WIC is required.
“Springer’s reunion is the only project of its kind in history,” Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and author of the new book Orca Rescue! said. “Her continued success gives us hope, and inspires us to approach issues facing orcas today with the same commitment, urgency and resolve.”