This Could Be the Happiest Baby Orca Ever

There have been many ups and downs for an endangered group of orcas living in the Pacific Northwest, but a recent sighting of one of the latest newcomers showing off some of her new skills has raised more hope that they may yet be able to make a comeback.

First spotted at the end of December when she was just a few days old, little J50 is one of four new calves recently born among this group of orcas, otherwise known as the southern resident killer whales who live in three distinct pods (J, K and L).

Photographer Clint Rivers captured an incredibly stunning image of her with her family in the waters between San Juan Island and Vancouver Island over Independence Day weekend.

“J50 stole the show, and hearts, with more than 60 breaches as she and her family moved south in Haro Strait. It’s like she just figured out how this breaching thing works and couldn’t stop,” Rivers told Care2.

J50x                                               Credit: Clint Rivers Showtime Photography

“This photo conveys the hope for our Southern Resident Orca population. Researchers theorize that two members of J pod helped the birth of J50, pulling the baby out of its mother. Rake marks (caused by Orca teeth) can still be seen on J50’s back,” he added.

J502                                              Credit: Clint Rivers Showtime Photography

Seeing J50 thriving and experiencing the joy of being wild and free with her family isn’t just heartmelting, it’s really good news for these orcas.

It had been almost three years since the last successful birth for this population. Despite protection in both the U.S. and Canada, they have yet to recover from the trauma of captures that took place decades ago, and their survival continues to hang in the balance.

They recently lost two adult members ― 37-year-old L53 (Lulu) and 13-year-old L100 (Indigo) ― which brought the population down to the lowest it’s been since 1985. Last fall, a calf was born in the L pod, but tragically did not survive.

In December, they suffered another crushing loss with the confirmation that Rhapsody (J32), an 18-year-old female member of the J pod who was pregnant, had died. Rhapsody’s death brought their numbers down to only 77, which left them with 11 fewer members than there were when they were declared endangered in 2005.

The recent baby boom, which has added four new calves, including J50, J51, J52 and L121, has their advocates cautiously optimistic that their numbers will continue to grow.

According to the Center for Whale Research, which keeps track of these orcas, as of the latest official count completed this July all of the calves are alive and well and have brought the population up to 81 – not counting Lolita, a member of the L pod who is at the Miami Seaquarium.

While Lolita’s advocates are working hard to get her back to her home waters and her family, efforts are also underway to ensure this unique population survives in the wild.

Unfortunately, while they continue to face a barrage of threats ranging from boat traffic and noise to toxic pollutants, many believe that the biggest problem they now face is a lack of Chinook salmon, which is their main food source.

Now their advocates are pushing for the removal of dams on the Snake River in Washington and Klamath River in Oregon and Northern California to help salmon recover, which will hopefully help keep both of these endangered species from disappearing.

For more info on these orcas and ways to help, check out the Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Initiative, Orca Network, Center for Whale Research and Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s Don’t Let Orcas Be Dammed campaign and a new documentary about their plight – Dammed to Extinction. And speak out against captivity by signing the Care2 petition below.

Photo credit: Clint Rivers Showtime Photography

270 comments

Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 years ago

The government is ripping people off by maintaining those useless dams on Snake River, get rid of those dams, they are killing orcas and destroying the Chinook salmon runs.

SEND
Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

SEND
Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

What great pictures! You can see and feel the happiness with the first pic. Almost see a smile on the baby's face! What a wonderful feeling seeing that. How it should be.

SEND
Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

Thanks. Great photos.

SEND
Carol Johnson
Carol Johnson3 years ago

TY for sharing

SEND
Arlene C.
Arlene C3 years ago

merci Barbara et Alicia

SEND
Cindy Flanders
Cindy Flanders3 years ago

Be happy - I so hope the day comes when all animals are free. Run free beautiful.

SEND
Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

THIS IS WHAT FREEDOM LOOKS LIKE ...

Hope now that the good news has been "featured" it's not in trouble what with tourist gawking, potential slim entities hired for captivity and sale to human's entertainment providers, etc. Butt out and let it live as intended, you do.

SEND
marie-therese Hanulak

Just too beautiful for this world of humans

SEND
Kerry Fowler
BackSoon Fowler3 years ago

Heart-warming. Thank you we need this. Freedom for all whales and dolphins! Save the planet from human pollution.

SEND