By evening, several female orcas from the pod had gathered together at sunset. “A group of five to six females gathered at the mouth of the cove in a close, tight-knit circle, staying at the surface in a harmonious circular motion for nearly two hours,” a resident of San Juan Island told CWR. “As the light dimmed, I was able to watch them continue what seemed to be a ritual or ceremony. They stayed directly centered in the moonbeam, even as it moved.”
By Saturday, J35 was still carrying her baby, for the fifth straight day, even after her pod had moved on.
The tragic loss of this baby is just part of a larger story of devastation impacting these animals.
The southern resident killer whales (SRKW) group is made up of three pods, J Pod, K Pod and L Pod, who live in waters off the Pacific Northwest during the spring, summer and autumn. In recent years, environmental destruction and plummeting populations of Chinook salmon, the food source for these orcas, have made many of them go hungry. Damming rivers has contributed to this loss of the food source. (In the 1970s, the southern resident pods were also depleted by SeaWorld, which, along with other marine parks, took a generation of baby orcas captive.)