Pregnant orca was starving and carrying a dead fetus: report
Published Friday, December 12, 2014 3:58PM PST
Last Updated Friday, December 12, 2014 7:20PM PST
The pregnant orca found off the B.C. coast last week was likely underfed for a long time before it died, according to a preliminary necropsy report.
The unofficial report, prepared by the U.S. Center for Whale Research, said Rhapsody the orca’s blubber layer was relatively thin and dry of oil, findings that point to extended malnourishment.
Author Kenneth Balcomb said the death highlights a dire lack of food for southern resident killer whales.
“We must restore abundant healthy prey resources ASAP if these whales are to have any chance of avoiding extinction,” his report reads.
“The critical point for their recovery may already have passed. I hope not, but it will soon pass if we do not take immediate action.”
Balcomb said the 18-year-old orca likely died giving birth to a fetus that was already deceased and potentially disintegrating inside of it.
The death has been described as a severe blow to the pod population, which was placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List nine years ago.
“There are only about a dozen reproductively viable females remaining in this population and very little possible recruitment to this cohort within the next few years,” Balcomb said.
Only 77 southern resident killer whales are left in total.
Rhapsody was found floating in the water near Courtenay on Dec. 4 and pulled to shore. Its teeth were stolen the following weekend, a crime being investigated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The official necropsy report, prepared by the DFO, has not been released.
To read the full Center for Whale Research report, click here.