Baby Orca Can't Stop Jumping For Joy After Miracle Birth

July 23, 2015

An orca preschool in the Salish Sea continues to be encouraging news for members of the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

baby orca leaping for joy
Image credit: Heather MacIntyre

The calves - named J50, J51, J51, and L121 - have been seen almost every day, but J50 has received the most attention.

baby orca leaping for joy
J50 / Image credit: Naturalist Clint "Showtime" Rivers

"I've never seen a baby whale breach like J50's been doing," said Michael Harris, executive director of PWWA, which represents 33 operators in Washington and British Columbia. "Her energy is astounding – I guess not unlike my small kids. She's constantly leaping into the air, and often curling up and doing belly flops. Of course we never know exactly why orcas breach, but when you see a young one do what J50's been doing, over and over again, and being so playful and affectionate as she is with her family members, you sorta lose that cold scientific analysis and just conclude she's leaping for joy. It's definitely a joy to watch."

baby orca leaping for joy
J50 / Image credit: Naturalist Clint "Showtime" Rivers

On July 4, whale watchers on an Eagle Wings Tour in Victoria got a show from J50.

"J50 stole the show, and hearts, with more than 60 breaches as she and her family moved south in Haro Strait," said Clint Rivers, a naturalist and photographer. "It's like she just figured out how this breaching thing works and couldn't stop. She was still breaching well into the evening."

baby orca leaping for joy
Image credit: Naturalist Clint "Showtime" Rivers

J50 was born about two weeks after J-Pod lost a female member while she was giving birth. That dropped the population to 77 whales. However, researchers believe that two members of the pod actually mid-wifed the birth of J50, pulling the baby out of its mother. The teeth marks can still be seen on J50's back.

baby orca leaping for joy
Image credit: Heather MacIntyre

"Maybe all this exuberance somehow has something to do with that, this miracle birth," said Harris. "Who knows? Maybe the other members of her family realize how precious she is, and how close she came to never making it into this world. Perhaps with all of this love surrounding her, this baby orca is just bursting with happiness. There's no doubt that J50 feels safe and well-cared for, like all of these babies are. We have some amazing families out there."

baby orca leaping for joy
Image credit: Barbara Bender

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