Image credit: HuffingtonPost.ca
More tragic news from the Pacific Northwest with reports that J2 is missing and presumed dead. J-2, affectionately named ‘Granny’, has not been seen since mid-October.
Dr. Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research (CWR) was the first to report the news on J-2.
‘Granny’ was known to be the matriarch of the resident killer whale pod that inhabits the waters in and around the Pacific Northwest. Scientists disagree about Granny’s real age. Dr. Balcomb was the first to estimate Granny’s age at 65 in 1976. The key word is estimate and Granny may be a statistical outlier. Calculating the exact age of a killer whale in the wild requires more than taking pictures. Researchers really need to closely physically examine the animals to accurately determine their age.
But the debate on Granny’s real age is certainly overshadowed by the news that she is feared dead. This is another in a series of sad news about the resident killer whales in J-Pod. Just last month a member of the pod was found dead on a Vancouver Island beach. Along with reports about the fragility of the pod’s female population, this well-known community of killer whales are facing serious challenges.
There are several factors playing into the declining orca populations. NOAA released a special report in 2014 that revealed the 3 main contributing causes: decline in chinook salmon populations, noise pollution and traffic from ships, and a contamination from chemicals.
Research being done on killer whales in accredited zoological facilities like SeaWorld is critical to increasing the understanding of these incredible animals and finding solid, sustainable solutions to save endangered populations like J-Pod.