The birth of a baby to a young mother can sometimes cause consternation among human animals, but not so when it’s in our local pods of orcas.
The report on Monday of a new calf born to the J Pod, one of the area’s “most stable and successful” families, is being hailed far and wide, according to Howard Garrett, director and co-founder of Orca Network.
A picture of the baby, wedged between its mother and grandmother, was posted on the Network’s Facebook page last night and had already garnered nearly 800 “likes” and hundreds of comments in 12 hours.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” said Garrett. “We’re celebrating.”
Research into the endangered Orcinus orca species shows that the mammals are highly intelligent and live in complex and ancient cultures based on descent through the female line, Garrett said. Male and female offspring typically stay with their mothers their entire lives, he said.
Even during adolescence, the mothers seem to “just enjoy their children all the time. They don’t worry about house cleaning.”
The new calf, J49, is believed to have been born on Monday, Garrett said, and the first picture of him or her was taken by Capt. James Maya in the south end of the Georgia Strait, off of British Columbia.
The baby, who will be given another name at about 1 year old, is the first offspring of 11-year-old J37, who is named Hy’Shqa, and the grandchild of Samish, or J14. J14 has four living offspring. Her mother, J12 is deceased, but her grandmother, the baby’s great-great grandmother, J2, is over 100 years old and still swimming with the pod, he said.
Garrett said that while female orcas are biologically able to reproduce when they are 7 years old, they often don’t until they are about 14.
According to Garrett, the father of J37’s baby is probably from one of the other pods and the pairing would have been approved by her family, he said.
“The prevailing theory is that the mother or grandmother provides the matchmaking,” Garrett said.
For more information about orcas or the new baby, see the network’s Facebook page.