World's Oldest-Known Orca Is Missing and Believed Dead

The orca was estimated to have born in 1911, a year before the Titanic demise.

The world's oldest known killer whale, an iconic matriarch believed to have survived off the Pacific Northwest for more than 100 years, has been declared dead.

"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.

Nicknamed "Granny", the iconic century-old Orca played a vital role in not only leading the younger members of her family to forage for food, but also in observational studies over the past few decades that allowed researchers to seek protections for the whales and learn from their unique family structures.

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Despite her age, Granny's death will be a blow to J-pod and the rest of the southern resident population, he said.

In a memorial piece about Granny on the WRC website, Executive Director and Principal Investigator Kenneth C. Balcomb wrote that he last observed Granny on October 12, 2016. "Perhaps other dedicated whale-watchers have seen her since then, but by year's end she is officially missing from the [South Resident killer whale] population, and with regret we now consider her deceased".

Researchers have studied the remarkable cetacean since 1971 when they estimated she was 60 years old and gave her the official name of J2.

Yet another orca belonging to an endangered species is believed to be dead.

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Experts have been studying whales in the North Pacific Ocean, called the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) since the early 1970s.

Other Southern Resident orcas including Tokitae, who lives in Miami Seaquarium, and Northern Resident orca Corky in SeaWorld San Diego, are both the oldest killer whales in captivity, aged around 52 years old. "And, she kept on going, like the energizer bunny".

As of December 31, the SRKW population is now estimated to be 78, with J pod containing only 24 mammals, plus the wandering L87.

Researchers blame the decline of the population on a shortage of primary food - Chinook salmon - and high levels of toxins in the blubber, the result of pollutants in the water and food. Granny was considered the leader of the J pod.

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(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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