This calf who died as an infant in 1998, was born to J11, Blossom, and was the third of the four calves she birthed. Blossom was one of the four matriarchs of this resident pod. She was born in 1972 and lived until 2008. She birthed J27, Blackberry, in 1991; J31, Tsui, in 1995, this calf, and J39, Mako, in 2003. Her other calfs are still living. Since 1998, 78 Orcas have gone missing or have died. Approximately 75% of newborns have not survived over the past two decades and since 2015 there have been no viable pregnancies. The major threats to Orcas are bioaccumulation of toxins in the body, density of ship traffic, and shortage of food as residents eat chinook salmon only and their source of food, the herring, is also in decline. We don’t know too much about why this calf failed to thrive, but we know the loss was poignant as we witnessed the overwhelming grief exhibited by J35, Tahlequah, also born in 1998, with the loss of her infant in 2018 when she carried her dead calf for 17 days. Mammals with strong community connections, sharing in grief, sounds familiar, right? We are not so different.
Citizen Scientist: Gail Kleisinger