The Runaways were back yesterday! The T109As, or The Runaways, were named so as they split from the T109s and "ran away". Actually it's a pretty normal strategy among Bigg's Killer Whale groups once gang size increases.
The gang is made up of the matriarch, T109A, who was born in 1990. She travels with her offspring, and became a grandmother this year when her daughter, T109A2, gave birth to a calf.
On average, Bigg's Killer Whales produce viable calves (those surviving their first year) every 5 years. T109A has an exceptional rate of breeding: she produced her first surviving calf, T109A2 in 2005. Her second in 2009 and third in 2012. Although the cataloging hasn't been updated, it's thought she is the mother of two more calves, giving her five offspring in the group!
Although she is a success story, it is worth noting that her surviving offspring are coded T109A2 onwards. That means she gave birth to a calf that didn't survive, T109A1. It's worth remembering that calf mortality is as high as 50% in the first year. We can help increase that survival rate by being conscious of what we flush away, and the products we use. Toxins in the ocean bio-accumulate to a large degree in these mammal-eating Killer Whales. This toxin build up can lead to a number of health issues, but decreased fertility is one of them. So do The Runaways a favour - check what products you use and make sure they are eco-friendly!
This beauty is one of the 74 Southern Resident Killer Whales left on Earth. One month before I shot this picture, the only calf born in 3 years died 30mins after his birth. This endangered species mainly suffers from food deprivation due to intensive salmon fishing and contamination of those salmons from fish farms along the coast of British Columbia. The situation is really critical, and in order to recover wild salmon population in the area we need the Canadian government to start breaching the dams retaining them. Please sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/senator-murray-governor-inslee-dammed-to-extinction-southern-resident-orcas-are-starving-time-is-running-out
Morgan, an 11-year-old killer whale, gave birth yesterday morning at Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain. According to the official statement the calf is healthy and Morgan attended to her newborn immediately, demonstrating ideal maternal behaviour. Back when the pregnancy was first announced in December 2017 concerns were raised over whether Morgan would reject her calf due to a lack of experience. Fortunately, this did not happen and both mother and calf are reportedly doing well.
Morgan is the only rescued killer whale currently in captivity. At just three years old she was found swimming in the Wadden Sea, off the coast of the Netherlands, in a critical condition. Alone and extremely emaciated, she was captured and brought to Dolphinarium Harderwijk to receive emergency treatment and undergo rehabilitation. Unfortunately, Morgan was deemed non-releasable by the Dutch government on the grounds that she had not acquired the skills needed to survive in the wild. She was then transferred to Loro Parque in 2011 where she, despite not having the skills to care for herself, was somehow deemed to have the right skills to raise a calf of her own.
While Loro Parque insist everything is going well, the first video of Morgan and her newborn has raised some concerns. Baby M, as we’ll call him or her until a name is released, appears to be trying to nurse from Morgan’s belly button rather than her mammary glands which are located on either side of her genital slit. This is rather concerning as it may suggest the calf is struggling to nurse properly. If the calf cannot nurse the trainers will have to temporarily separate Morgan from her calf and try to bottle feed him/her. Hopefully this will not be necessary, and Baby M will begin to nurse correctly soon (if he/she hasn’t already).
Photo: Loro Parque
Video: Oceanikworld Zooconsultans