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Baby Orcas Raise Hopes, Highlight Concerns

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Ken Balcomb, who monitors local populations for NOAA, has spotted two baby orcas off Vancouver Island, a splash of good news for the Puget Sound orca population, which has been falling in recent years. My first reaction, though, was a realization that these young ones will—by virtue of their small bodies and fresh auditory systems—be at especially sensitive to the very factors that are challenging the survival of their population.  Boat and shipping noise is ubiquitous in their habitat, and young whales have more sensitive hearing than older ones….recent news confirmed fears that the orca’s main food source, salmon, are carrying high levels of toxins….and young animals may be more susceptible to stress responses (especially to the degree that communication with adults is hindered on a regular basis by noise)  that could make this combination of noise and toxins especially damaging.  So, swim strong, young ones!  Ken Balcolmb says these two look hale and hearty at a month old, well filled out and energetic; that’s just the sort of gusto that will be required of them, and we wish them many fruitful years in a habitat that regains its health over the course of their long lives.
Photo: Ken Balcomb 

See article on the new ones from the Seattle Times: [READ ARTICLE]

And, see Chris Dunagan’s Kitsap Sun news story and his blog post on an older male in their family, who it appears has recently died.

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