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03 October 2017

Critically Endangered Orcas Face Second Tragic Loss This Year

Very sadly, The Center for Whale Research (CWR) has reported that 2-year old Sonic, a wild young male orca has died. He was a member of the Southern Resident orcas which live in the waters off Washington State in the USA and British Columbia in Canada on the Pacific coast. These orcas are critically endangered; there are only now 76 left.  (There is one more Southern Resident orca alive Ė but Lolita (Tokitae) is alone in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium).

Sonic was last seen by CWR researchers with his mother, Alki and another male, Mystery, on 15th September.  Sonic seemed underweight and poorly, and Alki and Mystery were being very attentive to him. The next time his mother and J pod were sighted (19th September), sadly Sonic was not with them.

Sonic with his family. Photo Traci Walter

The combined effects of a lack of salmon available for them to eat, toxins in the water, and impacts from vessel traffic have brought the Southern Resident orcas to the edge of extinction.  CWR scientists have discovered that these orcas are having fewer calves, less often, and they are now less likely to survive than they were in the past.

For babies like Sonic, who is Alkiís firstborn, life can be especially hard.  This is because Southern Resident orcas are one of the most contaminated whale populations on the planet (they have high concentrations of toxins like DDT, PCBs, and PBDEs which are stored in their blubber mainly).  Unfortunately, mothers pass these toxins on to their babies throughout their pregnancies and in their milk.  First-born babies receive an especially high dose of these harmful chemicals from their mothers.

This heartbreaking loss of youngster, Sonic, is the latest in a very sad couple of years for the Southern Resident community, including the death of matriarch Granny last winter.

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