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World’s oldest known orca presumed dead


In what can be pegged as a massive blow to the already endangered orca killer whales, the world’s oldest orca has been missing for months and likely dead, researchers have revealed.

The orca, which is lovingly known as Granny, believed to be 105 years old hasn’t been spotted by researchers for months now and and according to the Centre for Whale Research in North America’s Pacific Northwest, this hiatus could be an indication that the century-old matriarch of a small population of endangered Puget Sound orcas is no more. The orca was last seen as she led her pod orth through the Haro Strait as they searched for food.

According to researchers including Ken Balcomb who have been studying orcas for decades now, Granny had been leading the J-pod, which is one of three family groups that make up the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. According to the researchers, loss of Granny could lead to more trouble for the pod going forward.

Easily recognisable by a half-moon nick on her dorsal fin, Granny was first identified by researchers in the 1970s. It was later estimated she had been born in 1911 – one year before the Titanic sank – with a 12-year margin of error.

Orcas have been having facing really challenging situations and last couple of years have been extremely challenging taking toll on quite a few of these whales with Granny being the latest victim of changing times. In the late 1960s and early 70s, dozens of orcas were captured and sold to aquariums and theme parks around the world. Those who remained were exposed to runoff chemicals used in local industry, making them some of the world’s most contaminated marine mammals.

In recent years, the orcas’ struggle to survive has intensified amid dwindling salmon stocks and increasing vessel traffic through their waters. Researchers in Canada have also warned that plans for a pipeline project, recently approved by the Canadian government and that would send oil tanker and barge traffic soaring nearly sevenfold through the orcas’ habitat, could further threaten the population.