A newborn killer whale has given new hope to a pod of whales off the coast of Washington state. The pod hadn’t seen a birth in nearly two years, and previously lost a pregnant female in December. However, as the birth occurred scientists were only cautiously optimistic regarding the future of the whales. To this point, it would appear as though the newborn is doing very well though. Scientists are calling the whale J50, and they noted that if this whale lives it will go down as “the first successful newborn in the Puget Sound population in about two and a half years.”
Ultimately, a lot of this comes down to losing reproductive potential. With each newborn that fails to make it to adulthood – it becomes more challenging for the pod to continue on. What this creates is a lot of stress and tension on the whales that exist within the pod and creates an imbalance. This imbalance is something that scientists say threaten the existence of this particular pod, as well as killer whales as a whole. Killer whales have been under intense watching over the course of the last several years – as they have become a species that scientists have become increasingly concerned about.
“We’re going to take every opportunity to get out and see if it’s still doing well,” said Ken Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research. According to the numbers, roughly 35-40% of the newborn killer whales die before they even reach one-year-old. That is a strikingly challenging rate of death and something that makes pushing the species forward incredibly challenging. With just over half of the newborn orcas making it beyond one year of age, it means nearly as many whales are dying before they even get to one-year-old.
Overall, this speaks to the urgency and the importance that this one birth has on the pod as a whole, and even speaks to the growing problem within the killer whale community. Many have said that this could be one of the most important births in decades and that the name ‘Miracle’ would be quite fitting.