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Tragic news as critically endangered Southern Resident orcas lose two more members

Today, the Center for Whale Research (CWR) held a press conference in Seattle to discuss the disappearance of two more Southern Resident orcas – Polaris (J28, born in 1993) and her newest calf, Dipper (J54), one of the “baby boom” calves born in 2015.  Polaris was a matriarch in J pod and also a mother to Star (J46, born 2009).  She had been observed in poor condition since this summer, most notably in September around the time that another J pod matriarch, Samish (J14), disappeared.  Although researchers at CWR had seen Polaris actively foraging and had hoped her state would improve, she has been missing from her family group since October 19th.  Her calf, Dipper, was last seen on Sunday, October 23rd in very poor condition, despite being supported by extended family.  CWR believes that both orcas are now deceased. 

Ken Balcomb, founder and senior researcher at CWR, read an obituary for Polaris to share this sad news, and highlighted the critical need to restore salmon for these endangered orcas. 

2016 continues to be a bad year for this endangered population.  With the loss of Nigel (L95) in April due to a fungal infection linked to the application of a satellite tag, one calf and three adult orcas have died in the increasingly fragile Southern Resident orca community.  They now number just 80 in the wild, and their decline is exacerbated by the continued loss of wild salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest.  Action is needed now to save this small and unique group of orcas as they move even closer to the edge of extinction.

Image: Orphaned calf J54 with tooth rakes from sister J46, who was trying to help him surface.  Photo by Mark Malleson, October 23, 2016

J54 without mom and with tooth rakes from sister J46 who was trying to help him to surface when he was in delirium Photo by Mark Malleson, October 23, 2016

The press conference can be viewed in its entirety below (courtesey Orca Network):