Marine mammal scientists conducting research off the coast of Washington last week spotted a baby orca, the third birth this winter for the three killer whale pods that comprise the Puget Sound endangered population.
The overall number of individuals in the J, K and L pods stands at 80, which is a number still in the historically low range.
Births are a hopeful sign for this iconic creature of the sea. But keep in mind: The survival rate for the baby orcas has been abysmal of late. There hasn’t been a successful birth in the population in the past two years. Last year alone, the Puget Sound orcas lost four family members, including a pregnant orca, a baby and two others presumed dead because they have not been seen by scientists tracking the population’s movements.
If the baby seen last week is still alive this summer, that will be reason to celebrate.
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This fish-eating population of orca whales continues to suffer from lack of food. Some of their salmon food sources are also on the federal Endangered Species Act list. Harmful pollutants that accumulate in their bodies are also threats to the marine mammals’ recovery.
It will still take a concerted effort by all to keep this beloved population of orcas from being relegated to the history books.