A few days ago, it was announced that K13 (a member of the Southern Resident Killer whales) has passed away. This brings the population down to just 77 members. These orcas are already endangered and can't afford to lose any other members. We need to help restore their primary food source, Chinook Salmon, if they are going to make a comeback. The transient killer whales that have been frequenting Puget Sound lately have higher levels of pollutants in their fat stores than the residents, but are thriving. Why? Because despite having to deal with more pollutants in their system, similar levels of boat traffic, etc. they have PLENTY of food. They feed on harbor seals and marine mammals, so do not have to resort to using those contaminated fat stores to survive. If we want our resident orcas in Puget Sound to survive, we have to restore the Chinook Salmon. No fish, No Blackfish. If you would like to contribute to this cause, please visit www.whaleresearch.com for more information. #southernresidentkillerwhales#orcas#orcapods#killerwhales#pugetsound#whalesanddolphins#wastate#research#nofishnoblackfish#blackfish#protect#conserve#keystonespecies#natureisamazing#wildlife
I wanted to explain how researchers identify individual killer whales. The technique that is most often used is called Photo ID. Researchers take left and right photos of the dorsal fin and saddle patch (grey area behind the dorsal), and from the shape of the fin, the saddle patch, and any nicks or scrapes, can tell every individual animal apart. Each orca is then given a letter (depending on which group or pod they are from) and a number in sequential birth order. From this data they can also keep track of who was born or died each year, create a database of family tree information for each pod, as well as keep track of the health of individual whales. Dr. Michael Bigg pioneered this technique on orcas in the Eastern North Pacific in the 1970s and 80s. Photo ID work was then perfected and used by Ken Balcomb who founded the Center for Whale Research and has been studying the Southern Resident Killer Whales in Puget Sound since 1976. From this work, a complete family history is now known for this population of orcas (J, K, and L pod) which is currently at 78 members total. A new Photo ID catalogue is released every year for the Southern Residents and is available to the public. I included a few photos below showing the catalogue and a decent ID shot of L pod females L86 and L103 which are members of the L4 matriline (L-Pod matrilines shown in picture 3). There are people that I know that can tell all of these whales apart even at 200 yards while they are all moving together, surfacing and diving at different times. It's definitely still a work in progress for me.
*Photo of L86 and L103 taken under permit with the Center for Whale Research* #killerwhales#orcaresearch#centerforwhaleresearch#animals#wildlife#nature#cetaceans#orcas#whales#dolphins#PhotoID#southernresidentkillerwhales#education#conservation#science