Orca Network joins with the Center for Whale Research to announce a new baby orca born in November in L pod. The new orca has been assigned the scientific designation L123. The new mom is 12-year old L103, called “Lapis,” and this is her first known offspring.
The average age at first birth is over 14 years old, so this new mom will likely have the support of her mother, 38-year old L55 (Nugget), and older sister, L82 (Kasatka), who had her own new calf, L116 (Finn) in 2010. There are now seven orcas in the three generations of the L55 matriline.
The newborn is the seventh birth in the endangered Southern resident orca population in the past year. In 1977 nine new calves were documented, and in 1986 also seven calves were born. The birth of L123 brings the total in J, K, and L pods up to 83, or 84 including Lolita, the L pod orca captured in 1970 and still on display in a theme park in Miami.
Little L123 was first noticed on Nov. 10 by Orca Network Whale Sighting Network coordinator Alisa Lemire Brooks and Orca Network and Langley Whale Center volunteer Sara Hysong-Shimazu who saw the newborn from Alki Point in Puget sound while Alisa and Sara were tracking and observing the orcas as part of Orca Network’s Whale Sighting Network, sharing their sightings with the public via Facebook to help others in Puget Sound get to nearby shorelines to see the whales. Their observations, and Alisa’s video and Sara’s photos, led them to realize that there was a new calf traveling with L pod that day. The photos and video were sent to the Center for Whale Research, but they were unable to officially confirm the birth until Dec. 4, when Mark Malleson found most of the Southern resident orcas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and was able to take photos from closer range.
Alisa Lemire Brooks’ video of L pod in Puget Sound on Nov. 10 may be viewed here .
The new arrival reminds us once again of our responsibility to make every effort to restore chinook salmon spawning habitat, and access to that habitat, to allow salmon runs to flourish and provide vital sustenance for this endangered extended orca family.
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