According to the Center for Whale Research, the oldest southern killer whale, known as J2 or “Granny” has died.
The whale has not been spotted since October 12th, and now, according to a blog post by researcher Ken Balcomb, is presumed to be dead. It remains unclear what the cause of death may have been.
“She is one of only a few ‘resident’ whales for which we do not know the precise age because she was born long before our study began,” Balcomb wrote. However, researchers estimate she was around 105 years old.
“We have now seen J2 thousands of times in the past forty years, and in recent years she has been in the lead of J pod virtually every time that she has been seen by anyone,” wrote Balcomb. “She is one of only a few ‘resident’ whales for which we do not know the precise age because she was born long before our study began.”
J2’s death only came weeks after the death of the 18-year-old orca J34 was found dead near Sechelt due to “blunt force trauma.” J34 was another member of Jpod. Four other members of Jpod died last years possibly due to “dwindling food supply.”
“The SKRW (Southern Resident Killer Whale) population is now estimated to be 78 as of Dec. 31, 2016, and J pod contains only 24 individuals plus the wandering L87,” said Balcomb. “To whom will he attach now? Who will lead the pod into the future? Is there a future without food? What will the human leaders do?”
Southern killer whales have been put on the endangered species list in 2005. It is asked that whoever spots a marine mammal dead or suffering to report it to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans 24-hour hotline at 1-800-465-4336.