Dead Orca Was Pregnant: Endangered Orca Whale Found Dead Was Pregnant With Full-Term Fetus

A dead orca that was found last week was pregnant according to biologists in British Columbia. While a cause of death is currently unknown, it is believed that the whale may have died during birthing complications. According to the Washington Post, the whale carcass was found floating in the water on Thursday, and was scheduled for a necropsy on Friday. Many were saddened to learn that the endangered whale had been carrying a full-term fetus at the time of her death.

Something else that was discovered was that the whale’s carcass had apparently been vandalized. Those working with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans said that someone stole teeth out of the whale’s mouth, and some of the teeth appeared to be sawed off.

“It looks like they broke off a couple, and there were a number that were sawed off, and those were cut off right to the gum. It’s just a senseless, illegal act. We take this kind of thing seriously. We don’t want endangered species parts being traded or sold,” said Paul Cottrell, the agency’s Pacific marine mammals coordinator.

The dead orca that was pregnant was known as whale J-32. She belonged to the “J-pod,” one of three families of orcas living in the Vancouver waters. J-32 was one of 78 remaining killer whales in Puget Sound. According to Fox News, it is illegal to possess part of an endangered animal.

“We’re not aware of a black market for killer whale parts. We’re taking considerable measures to find out who (did this). We do have a number of leads. It’s illegal. And we don’t want any type of market developing for endangered or threatened species,” Cottrell added (via ABC News).

As far as further tests, researchers hope to get some answers as to what might have happened, and if the baby was dead before or after its mother died. Ken Balcomb, a scientist with the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, who assisted in the necropsy said these tests should provide some answers.

“The fetus was decomposing. The tests will be able to tell whether the fetus was already dead before the mother died, and therefore may have been the cause of her death,” said Balcomb.

News that the dead orca was pregnant is devastating to those hoping to save the species. However, there have been some signs of reproduction in the area in the past. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, researchers spotted a baby orca in those same waters over the summer.

“The new Orca has been designated the serial number L-120,” reported the Inquisitr.

[Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]