It was supposed to be a research trip to spot the southern resident orcas making a rare appearance in the waters off Tofino. Instead of the co-owners of Tofino’s The Whale Centre, John Forde and his wife, Jennifer Steven, found a new baby orca alongside its mother J41.
“Wow. It’s such great news because as we all know the southern resident killer whales are having a pretty tough go of it these days,” Forde said.
This is the second calf born to the endangered southern residents since January. The last calf born, L124, is still in good health. That’s good news for a population now numbering 76.
“We worked our way out to that group, and were able to get photos, and realized it was a newborn calf,” Forde said.
The calf is so new, it’s still showing fetal folds in its body, and orange spots that will eventually turn white.
The birth comes at a time that other populations are experiencing declines. Scientists in Canada and the United States are so concerned about the 70 dead gray whales accounted for since January, they’ve launched a special mortality event that will allow them to monitor the gray whales more closely
“To have a new calf, and fingers crossed, that it survives and does OK, is great news for that population of animals,” Forde said.
It’s just one calf, but it’s a ray of hope.