Orca calf born to endangered southern resident pod
J-50 was spotted off South Pender Island in Swanson Channel
A calf has been born in the endangered southern resident orca population.
The Center for Whale Research confirmed the birth of a new calf J-50, which it believes is a few days old, to the mother, J-16.
Ken Balcomb, a senior scientist with the center in Washington state, said the calf was spotted in the Gulf Islands, off South Pender Island in Swanson Channel.
"The calf was born sometime recently," he said. "We estimate a couple days, maybe a week."
The Vancouver Aquarium says a successful birth isn't counted until the calf passes the one-year mark.
Good news for endangered population
However, this is good news for the pod, whose population has been the lowest in a decade this year. With this latest birth, the population of southern resident killer whales is now 78.
"If this baby survives, we're a little bit on the road to recovery of this population," Balcomb said.
"We need to have four babies a year survive in order to fill in all the ones that have died in the past few years."
In December, the pod lost a pregnant mother, who likely starved to death.
Research conducted in recent years has shown that southern resident orcas depend almost entirely on Chinook salmon for sustenance, with a diet of Chum salmon during fall months when Chinook are especially scarce, according to the Orca Network.
Watch raw video of the calf J-50 (near the 20-second mark).