K13, K16, K20, K34 @ Maya-Sears, NOAA Permit 16163

Video of killer whales off the coast of Oregon on April 28 was shared with Wild Orca by a supporter. Wild Orca research assistant, Melisa Pinnow, confirmed the identity of the individuals in the group and discovered the presence of the calf alongside female K20 in the video on Friday April 28, 2022. Dr. Deborah Giles then notified NOAA and our colleagues at the Center for Whale Research were notified as well. This is the first new baby in K pod since the arrival of K44 Ripple in 2011.

Wild Orca’s Science and Research Director, Dr. Deborah Giles is always overjoyed to know of any new born in this population, but for her this is personal. “I am beyond thrilled to learn that K20 is a mom again,” she said. “She’s been my favorite whale for decades, and the fact that she’s been pregnant so many times without bringing a calf to full term in recent years, this is huge.”

In fact Giles has had a front row seat to K20’s many years of loss. Fecal samples collected from this 36 year-old whale have revealed multiple pregnancies over the last decade, and she was also photographed as heavily pregnant in August 2020, but this is the first time since 2004 she has been seen with a live calf, and he, K38 Comet, is now aged 18.

K pod with new calf around 57s

We know from human experience how emotionally and physically devastating miscarriages are to mothers and their families. These highly emotionally intelligent, social killer whale families must bear these scars also.

“The area of their brain associated with memory, emotion and language is larger than ours”, explains Giles, “so they likely experience emotions even more strongly than we do.” With a 17 month gestation period, losing a calf in late term, as these animals are frequently experiencing is devastating to the mom and her whole pod, and puts the future of the population at greater risk of extinction.

While some had given up hope of K pod ever having a successful birth again,  clearly K pod, and K20 had not given up, and so we must do everything we can to support healthy oceans, with plentiful salmon. We know that these whales are experiencing an unsustainably high rate of pregnancy loss, yet we know that sufficient Chinook salmon is the key to sustaining healthy pregnancies.

We are heartened to see Canada once again taking bold actions this fishing season to benefit these whales. We now need to see the U.S. government step up and match their plan to save Pacific salmon, and give these whales a future.

Time and time again we see nature’s resilience, with wildlife able to return from the brink, against all the odds we’ve stacked against them, as once we clear the path for their recovery, there is always hope as nature will find a way to survive.

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Endangered Killer Whales

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Tell NW Leaders to move on from Deadbeat Dams

The four lower Snake River dams choke off hundreds of miles of wild salmon spawning habitat, important to endangered Chinook. Dam breaching can help restore these wild salmon populations, and feed endangered orcas.

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Tell NW Leaders to move on from Deadbeat Dams

The four lower Snake River dams choke off hundreds of miles of wild salmon spawning habitat, important to endangered Chinook. Dam breaching can help restore these wild salmon populations, and feed endangered orcas.

Act Now

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