Another female calf raises hopes for endangered orca population

Orca researchers have confirmed that one more calf born in the endangered southern resident population is a female.

Survival of 2 female calves particularly important for endangered southern resident population

Photographs of the J53 confirm that the calf is female. (Jill Hein and Sara Hysong-Shimazu/Center for Whale Research)

Orca researchers have confirmed that one more calf born in the endangered southern resident population is a female.

Photographs taken earlier this week confirmed the calf J53 is a female, according to the Centre for Whale Research in Washington state.

Only one other of the eight surviving calves in the so-called "orca baby boom" — J50 —is a confirmed female. Five others are male, while the sex of one, L123, remains undetermined.

Researchers say the survival of the two female calves is particularly important because they will help repopulate the endangered population of orcas. About 50 per cent of orca calves die before reaching maturity, according to experts.

"We are delighted to have another young female in the population.  This is great news for the southern residents," said a statement from the Centre for Whale Research.

There are about 80 animals in the southern resident population of orcas that spend their summers in the waters around the south end of Vancouver Island.

3rd female calf confirmed dead

Meanwhile, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has also confirmed a dead killer whale calf found near Sooke on Southern Vancouver Island on March 23 was a very young female from the same population.

The calf was identified by the Vancouver Aquarium genetics team as a southern resident, but had not yet been categorized because of its young age.