Another baby orca born to endangered southern residents

SEATTLE (AP) — The Center for Whale Research has confirmed that another baby orca has been born to a pod of endangered southern resident orcas that frequent Puget Sound.

It’s the second calf born this month for J pod, according to director Ken Balcomb, who confirmed the birth in a text message to The Seattle Times on Friday.

“We confirm that there is a new calf in J pod and the mother is J41,” Balcomb wrote.

J35, the orca also known as Tahlequah, gave birth to a male calf on Sept. 4. Tahlequah raised global concern in 2018 when her new calf died and she carried it for 17 days and more than 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers).

There are now 74 southern residents in the J, K, and L pods. Threats to their survival include boat noise and vessel disturbance; pollution; and lack of food, especially chinook salmon.

The birth of the newest baby was witnessed by professional naturalists Talia Goodyear and Leah Vanderwiel, along with customers aboard the Orca Spirit Adventures vessel Pacific Explorer, according to a news release from the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

The second birth to J pod in just a few weeks is “certainly cause for celebration,” said Deborah Giles, biologist for the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology. She leads research on the orcas’ scat, which holds key information on their health. “This is just exactly what we need in 2020.”