Two more killer whales likely won't survive the year
Saturday, January 5, 2019, 5:09 PM - The dwindling population of southern resident killer whales off the West Coast is likely to see the deaths of two more of its number in 2019, according to the conservation group that monitors them.
The Washington State-based Center for Whale Research reported last year that one individual, a 27-year-old male known as K25, was showing severe signs of starvation. Now, a New Year's Eve survey confirmed that another whale, 42-year-old female J17, was was in poor shape, manifesting as a condition known as "peanut head," referring to the head appearing larger than the body as the whale loses mass due to starvation.
The centre believes both will likely not survive the year.
“I am confident we are going to lose them sometime before summer,” Ken Balcomb, the group's founding director, told the Seattle Times.
The new losses will be another deadly blow to the group, after three killer whales died within a few months of each other in 2017. One was a calf that died days after birth whose mother, killer whale J35, also known as Tahlequah, made worldwide headlines when she balanced the body on her nose for 17 days before abandoning it at last.
That population of killer whales has had no successful births in three years, the centre says, and only numbers around 74 individuals, divided into three pods. The group's numbers have fluctuated since the 1970s, peaking at almost 100 individuals in 1995, but have been on a downward trend in recent years, and its current population is the lowest in decades.
Southern resident killer whales are considered endangered under Canada's Species at Risk Act.