WATCH: More than a dozen members of the endangered southern resident orca population were spotted in Puget Sound on Thursday and with them, a pint-sized hope for the future. Mary Griffin reports.
Researchers say a new calf has been born to the southern resident killer whales.
The new calf was spotted swimming beside L77, who was pregnant, near Vashon Island in Puget Sound. The K and L Pod southern resident killer whales were swimming on Thursday when a KING 5 helicopter was used to capture footage of the calf.
WATCH: Footage from KING 5 shows a new calf swimming with the Southern Resident killer whales.
The L and K pods were in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca Friday, heading to Victoria. Researchers are working on determining the sex of the new calf by photographs they are taking of the whales. The new whale is designated as L124 and weights 181 kilograms.
This is the first birth in L pod in seven years.
.@kenbalcomb from the Center for Whale Research says the new southern resident orca calf, L124, appears healthy & weighs in at 181 kg. Mother is L77. This is the 1st birth to L Pod since 2012. @CHEK_News
— Mary Griffin (@Mary_Griffin_) January 11, 2019
The researchers, who are out on a boat, also want to determine the condition of all the whales.
Ken Balcomb, the Center for Whale Research Founder, told KING 5, the calf has a decade or more before it reaches sexual maturity and neonate mortality is 40 per cent.
Previous data showed there were 74 critically endangered southern resident killer whales left. The new calf would bring the number up to 75. There are two other pregnant whales in K pod and J pod. However, there are also two ill whales. K25, a 27-year-old-male, is failing from a lack of sufficient food and 42-year-old J17, a female, has a so-called peanut head – a misshapen head and neck caused by starvation.
WATCH: Full footage from the King 5 chopper showing the southern resident killer whales swimming in Puget Sound.
With files from Alison Morrow, King 5.