There’s a new addition to the critically-endangered southern resident orca family.
A member of J-Pod very recently gave birth to a calf, named J59, the Center for Whale Research announced Wednesday.
“We estimate this baby was born within the past few days, given its lumpy physical nature,” the centre said.
CWR said they received learned about the possibility of a new calf after J-Pod was spotted swimming near San Juan Island with a new baby a few days ago.
An expert, Dave Ellifrit, managed to locate the whales near Kelp Reef and confirmed seeing a calf beside a whale known as J37. Other whales, J47 and J40 were nearby.
“Dave captured images of J37 with her new baby travelling in a tight group with other family members,” the centre said.
It is unclear at this point what gender the J59 is but the centre said it appears to be in good health due to its size and shape.
The early years for baby southern resident whales are extremely critical as their chances of survival are not great, experts say.
“When the calf is born, it’s the most critical time of its life,” Josh McInnes, a researcher with the University of British Columbia’s Marine Mammal Research Unit, told CHEK News in an interview last September. “It is a 50 per cent chance of death, 50 per cent chance of survival.”
J59 becomes the first calf born into J-Pod since September 2020, according to CWR, which notes that J59’s mother, J37, was born in 2001 and is part of the J14 matriline.