WATCH: Scientists are worried about the future of two members of the critically-endangered southern resident orca population. They are starving and in poor health. In 2018, three of the orcas died, reducing the population to 74. Mary Griffin reports.
The video taken of the southern resident orca J Pod on Dec. 31, in the waters near Cadboro Bay, show that J17, a 47-year-old female, is so thin she’s developed a ‘”peanut head,” a misshapen head and neck caused by starvation.
“By the time that you reach having a peanut head, it’s often the point of no return,” Marine Biologist Anna Hall said.
And a 27-year-old male, K25, is also too skinny.
Deborah Giles, a resident scientist and lecturer at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories is not optimistic about the whale’s future.
“It’s just becoming more and more dire. The fact that we are losing this breeding age male, and this very, very near breeding age female, I think is indicative of a situation that is unfortunately probably going to get worse before it gets better,” Giles said.
This news comes after a grim 2018. The southern resident population lost three orcas in the space of four months. Last summer, the world’s attention focused on J35, as she carried her dead baby for 17 days before releasing it.
Then there was the unfolding drama of J50. Teams of scientists went to unprecedented lengths to save the young female. They darted her with antibiotics and fed her chinook salmon. But in the end, she died.
“We have to ensure that for those other animals, that are well, that there is sufficient food, healthy food, and that it is available food,” Hall said.
There are only 74 orcas left in the southern resident population.