Update: Morgan’s Calf

October 15, 2018

Announcement from Loro Parque: 

We are pleased to report that Morgan’s calf is continuing to gain weight and is growing stronger every day. Morgan’s milk production has been lower than what is required to meet the young calf’s nutritional needs, so it has been necessary to introduce regular bottle feeding. That decision is already showing positive results and the team of experts who are monitoring the calf around the clock are encouraged by its physical and mental progress as the young orca swims and plays.

While we would rather see Morgan able to breastfeed, the health and wellbeing of the calf are the top priority. In the wild, orca calves do not survive if their mothers are unable to produce enough milk.

Fortunately – thanks to our world-leading facilities, vets, and consultants – we can provide the calf with a specialized and nutritious formula consisting of milk, blended fish, and other essential vitamins and ingredients that are combined with the milk Morgan is able to produce. The formula has been developed by marine mammal veterinarians and animal nutritionists and it is clear that the calf is feeling the benefits.

In the interests of safety for mother, calf, and the experts assisting them, while bottle feeding takes place the pair are currently in different pools immediately adjacent to one another. Both mother and calf show signs they are relaxed and comfortable while this period of bottle feeding takes place.We offer our heartfelt thanks once again for the continued messages of support. The team will continue to provide updates as and when we have new information.

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Scientists: Removal of dams key to orca survival Researchers sent letter to Inslee, task force discussing species, recovery

October 15, 2018

Leading killer-whale scientists and researchers are calling for removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River and a boost of water over the dams to save southern resident killer whales from extinction.

The scientists sent a letter Monday to Gov. Jay Inslee and co-chairs of a governor’s task force on orca recovery.

The whales need chinook — their primary prey — year round, scientists state in their letter, and the spring chinook runs in particular returning to the Columbia and Snake are among the most important. That is because of the size, fat content and timing of those fish, making them critical for the whales to carry them over from the lean months of winter to the summer runs in the Fraser River, the scientists wrote.

The need for Columbia and Snake river fish is so acute, “we believe that restoration measures in this watershed are an essential piece of a larger orca conservation strategy. Indeed, we believe that southern resident orca survival and recovery may be impossible to achieve without it.”

Based on the science and the urgency of the current threats confronting the southern residents, the scientists recommended two top priorities for the task force in its recommendations for orca recovery: Immediately initiate processes to increase the spill of water over the dams on the Columbia and Snake, to create more natural river conditions, and to breach the Lower Snake River dams.

The letter comes as the death of three southern resident orcas in four months last summer, one from L pod and two in J pod, have added fuel to the long running-campaign to free the Snake.

Lower Snake River dam removal has been debated in the region for decades as a way to boost salmon runs. Three federal judges in a row in five rulings since 1994 also have called for an overhaul of hydropower operations at eight federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers to boost salmon survival, including a serious look at dam removal. The latest court review now underway will not be concluded until 2021 and calls for NOAA, the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets power from the dams, and other agencies to take a serious look at dam removal.

However, the scientists call for urgent action now because the orcas are continuing to decline and need food. “Orca need more chinook salmon available on a year-round basis as quickly as possible,” the scientists wrote.

As orca advocates joined forces with dam busters, BPA has pushed back. In a recent press briefing, BPA managers said the Columbia and Snake produce only some of the fish the orcas use, and that the four Lower Snake River dams are important to the region.

However, the reliance by orca whales on spring chinook from the Columbia and Snake in particular is well documented, the scientists wrote.

All three pods are spending less time in their spring and summer habitat of the San Juan Islands, and more time off the coast, because of diminished Puget Sound and Fraser River chinook runs. Their travels reflect their search for food. The whales depend on chinook from rivers all over Puget Sound as well as the from the Fraser, Columbia and Snake rivers.

Chinook recovery has been a long struggle in the Columbia and Snake rivers, where hatchery fish make up most of the runs. Hatchery chinook recently have been surging, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show. Yet even good returns are a fraction of historic numbers. Wild runs — the basis for long-term recovery in the Columbia and Snake — have remained far below the level of adult returns required for recovery — let alone to prevent extinction.

Signing the letter were Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, and Deborah Giles, who is resident scientist at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs and the science and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca.

Their research shows a steady increase in mortality and orca pregnancy failure. Those two factors in combination have led to the recent decline in the southern resident orca population, which today stands at just 74 individual whales — a 35-year low.

The letter comes as the governor’s task force on orca recovery is set to convene its final meeting and public hearing before making its recommendations to Gov. Jay Inslee, due Nov. 1.

Source: The Columbian

Orca ‘killer whale’ surfaces off Phuket

October 9, 2017

Orca Whale spotted in the seas off Phuket | The Thaiger

PHUKET: A leading marine life specialist has called on people to not panic after a large orca, or “killer whale”, was spotted off Phuket’s west coast yesterday (Oct 8).

The news broke when Facebook user “Phairot Kong” posted a photo credited to Peerayut Boonchom as well as a video showing the killer whale surfacing alongside what appears to be a fishing boat.

In response, Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine activist who serves as the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Fishery at Kasetsart University in Bangkok and as an official advisor to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), noted that orcas have been sighted around Thailand for at least 20 years.

Orca males generally grow to six to eight metres long and weigh three to four tons. They usually stay in groups of five to six,” Dr Thon explained in a Facebook post yesterday.

“Many people misunderstand and think that these whales are found only at the poles, but orcas are actually found around the world, including in the tropics,” he wrote.

This was not the first time orcas have been sighted off Phuket, Dr Thon added.

“There have been several sightings around Phuket in the past three to four years. The last orca spotted off Phuket was only last year,” he wrote.

“Do not panic or be frightened by these animals. They do not attack humans. Just be happy that orcas are in Thailand and that they visit Phuket from time to time,” Dr Thon advised.

Source: The Phuket News.com

To watch the VIDEO visit coconuts.co

Researchers Had ‘No Idea’ Killer Whales Could Dive This Deep

October 4, 2018

Killer whales in the South Atlantic Ocean are willing to dive more than a thousand feet more than previously recorded—if they are certain to get a snack at the end of it, researchers have discovered. And the best way to guarantee food is to steal it.

BC-based marine researcher Jared Towers witnessed a tagged killer whale diving 3,566 feet to snag some toothfish off a long commercial fishing line. More than 60 killer whales and 40 sperm whales were studied, though just one of each was tagged because whales aren’t particularly cooperative, said Towers.

“We had no idea they were physiologically capable of diving this deep. This depth record destroys all others for the species,” said Towers, who detailed his team’s findings in a new paper published last month in the journal ICES Journal of Marine Science.

Towers travelled to the frigid, choppy waters surrounding South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands to learn more about what killer and sperm whales are willing to do to eat.

Killer whales, depending on size, can eat between 200-400 pounds of fish a day. They also often share food with their kin. Toothfish in the south Atlantic are a particularly energy-dense and highly desirable food for whales of all types.

Towers told me by phone that researchers witnessed killer and sperm whales competing to steal fish from the longlines, and in some cases the whales even acted aggressively while competing for food.

“Considering fishing is usually stopped when killer whales show up to steal fish, we hypothesize that their extreme behaviours are driven by the limited availability of the energy rich toothfish resource,” Towers said.

Sperm whales are normally able to dive deeper than killer whales, he added, especially when they’re in the business of catching prey: “The sperm whale goes deeper, faster and longer when it was stealing fish compared to when it wasn’t.”

The fact that the killer whales—which aren’t really known for ultra-deep dives—were also setting new dive records could be a byproduct of this competition, he explained. The killer whales observed for this study dove quickly and then had to spend hours recovering. One whale spent four hours at the surface trying to fight off the bends. “They’ll do anything for food, if the food is the right kind,” said Towers.

Fisheries may be aghast at the discovery. Typically they set out longlines, measuring 2.5-7.5 miles in length with hooks every 10 feet or so, to haul in multiple fish at once.

Clearly the whales understood how the fishing boats worked; whales were observed following ships for up to 200 miles before making their move on the toothfish.

These new diving behaviors are impressive, yet also a cause for concern.The whales could easily get a hook in the mouth or get wrapped in the line. Worse, they could also become dependent on human fishing as a way to get food.

“Fisheries are volatile. If the fishery collapses, the whale suffers too,” said Towers.

He noted that the whales’ habits might encourage fisheries to develop new techniques to prevent their thieving, which could potentially endanger the animals.

Still, at least for the time being, the killer whales appear to be getting fish-rich off of human activities in the ocean. Godspeed, Willy.

Source: Motherboard.vice.com

New collaboration hopes to save endangered Northwest orca whales

October 4, 2018

A new scientific effort will sequence the genomes of critically endangered Pacific Northwest orcas to better understand their genetics and potentially find ways to save them from extinction.

The collaboration announced today involves scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, the nonprofit Nature Conservancy and BGI, a global genomics company.

The project will sequence the genome — the entire genetic code of a living thing — of more than 100 southern resident killer whales using skin or other samples collected from live and dead orcas over the past two decades. Initial results are expected next year.

Scientists said the information could help explain, for example, whether internal factors such as inbreeding or genetic variation in immune systems are preventing the whales from rebounding.

The distinctive black-and-white fish-eating orcas have struggled with pollution, boat noise and a dearth of their preferred prey, chinook salmon. The death of a young orca last month — despite a weekslong international effort to save her — leaves only 74 in a group that has failed to reproduce successfully in the past three years. That’s the lowest number in over 30 years.

“This will help us fill in some really critical gaps in our understanding about why the population is not recovering,” Mike Ford, director of conservation biology at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, said during a news conference in BGI’s Seattle office. “As we fill in those gaps that will lead us to potentially better solutions.”

Ford was lead author on a study published earlier this year that found that just two males in the small population fathered half of the calves that were born and sampled by scientists since 1990.

“Inbreeding could be a problem but we don’t have enough data to study that in-depth,” Ford said.

Inbreeding, for example, could affect whether a female orca will become pregnant, whether she’ll have a calf or how likely that calf would be to survive.

Female orcas have been having pregnancy problems because of nutritional stress linked to lack of salmon. A multi-year study last year by University of Washington and other researchers found that two-thirds of the orcas’ pregnancies failed between 2007 and 2014.

BGI will sequence the orcas’ genomes and provide analyses and results to U.S. fisheries biologists and other scientists. They’ll compare that research to the genomes of the Alaska population of killer whales that have been thriving, as well as mammal-eating transient whales.

Yiwu He, CEO of BGI Groups USA in Seattle, said that like so many others in the region, he and his family have been captivated by the iconic whales that spend time in the inland waters of Washington state.

“We very much want to do something to help,” he said, adding the genome sequencing could help unravel questions about why the animals are not reproducing. He noted that BGI has extensive experience sequencing whole genomes of humans, plants and animals.

Kevin Werner, science and research director for the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, said the project enlists more experts outside of government to work on the problems.

Ford said the results could put other problems faced by the whales, such as lack of prey or contamination, into context and could lead to different solutions. Whales found to have weaker immune systems because of lack of genetic diversity of immune-system genes, for example, could warrant more active treatment or management in the future.

“We don’t know what we’re going to find,” Ford said, adding: “Maybe we’ll learn something new about the population that we don’t already know.”

Source: Star Advertiser.com

Killer whale sighting in Albany

October 3, 2017

A pod of killer whales have been sighted at Nanarup near Albany.

The pod was sighted on Monday afternoon with three to four orcas spotted 30m offshore Nanarup Beach hunting fish.

Project Orca’s Bec Wellard said the sighting was quite unusual and exciting.

“It’s quite exciting that they were spotted so close to shore, usually sightings of orcas are about 50km offshore,” she said.

The last orca sighting near Albany was recorded on February 28.

Project ORCA are currently seeking any further sighting information and high quality images of these animals.

Albany Whale Tours owner Forrest Woodbury said although they haven’t seen any killer whales, there has been whale sightings on their last days of tours.

“We had a few days of no sightings and thought maybe the season was over but went out yesterday and saw some southern rights,” she said.

“It has been our most difficult season with the weather being a main factor, there are more whales than people.”

Source: The West.com.au

Update: Morgan’s calf – separated again?

October 1, 2018

Update from the Loro Parque Blog: 

It’s now just over a week since Morgan gave birth and the entire team of carers, veterinarians, and international experts who have been monitoring the situation are delighted with the calf’s progress. The primary focus continues to be ensuring that the calf is getting all the nourishment it needs and the team has been concerned that Morgan’s milk production has been lower than required.

While natural breastfeeding is always the preferred option, nothing is more important than the wellbeing of the animals in our care – so the veterinary team has stepped in to assist at times by temporarily bottle feeding the calf.

Despite continuous attempts to help Morgan feed naturally, her milk production remains low. As a result, the only option has been to move the calf over to regular bottle feeds. Thanks to Loro Parque’s world-leading facilities and the help of the world’s top experts, we are able add the small amount of milk that Morgan is producing daily to the bottled formula feed, which is provided in a special dedicated medical pool. Using Morgan’s milk helps enrich each meal the calf receives and provides the vital antibodies that aid the development of its immune system.

Despite the challenges in breastfeeding, the bond between mother and calf continues to grow and Morgan is demonstrating exemplary maternal instincts as she swims alongside her calf at all times they are together.

We know from the many messages of support we continue to receive that many of you are closely following this news, so we will keep providing updates as and when we have new information.

  • The post seems to indicate that while Morgan’s calf has been back on bottle feedings in the med pool that she is also being allowed time with Morgan? However no images have surfaced yet of Morgan and her calf together since the time of the birth. The only images I have found are of the calf being bottle feed alone in the med pool. – As close as mothers and calves are for the first several months following birth it seems doubt that the two have been placed back together, otherwise Morgan would have likely entered the med pool with her daughter during feedings.
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