(Possibly the last photo of J32 – at right – by Melisa Pinnow, provided by Orca Network)
11:45 PM: Another death reported tonight among the endangered orcas whose home is Puget Sound and adjacent waters. The orca found dead in British Columbia is identified as a member of J Pod, J32, known as “Rhapsody,” an 18-year-old female. According to reports including this one published by the Vancouver Sun, she might have been pregnant – a necropsy will reveal whether that’s true. J32’s death comes less than two months after the death of baby L120 was reported. The Southern Resident Killer Whales’ total number is now down to 77, much lower than the triple-digit population the official “recovery plan” had envisioned by now, as discussed at this recent talk presented by The Whale Trail.
11:53 PM: We have the full Orca Network news release about J32’s death – click ahead:
A deceased orca was found earlier today near Courtenay, BC in northwest Georgia Strait and was identified as 18-year old J32, known as Rhapsody. Photos sent by Canada’s Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans were identified by Ken Balcomb at the Center for Whale Research. J pod last visited Puget Sound in late November, and J32 was last identified and photographed with her family November 26 east of Victoria BC by the Center for Whale Research.
J32 was thought by many to be in the late stages of pregnancy last summer due to her wide girth when she breached, as she often did.
A necropsy Saturday led by Dr. Stephen Raverty will reveal if she was indeed pregnant and hopefully will find the cause of death. She was believed to have died in the past 24 to 48 hours.
J32’s mother was J20, who died in 1998 when Rhapsody was only 2 years old. She was raised by her aunt, J22 Oreo. She is survived by J22 and her cousins J34 Doublestuf and J38 Cookie, leaving only three survivors of the former J10 matriline, and only 77 members of the Southern Resident Community.
We cannot express how tragic this loss is for this struggling, precariously small, family of resident orcas of the Salish Sea. This loss bring the overall number of Southern Resident orcas below their number in 2005 when they were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The loss of J32 marks the fourth death of a Southern Resident orca in 2014. The last surviving Southern Resident baby was born in August of 2012.