If you have a question about Luna or his family, please email us. We will post the answers on this web site.
Q. Why can't the calls of Luna's pod be recorded or re-transmitted so he can know that they are nearby. Trena from Vancouver, Canada
A. If we're talking about playing live, or almost live, L pod calls to Luna, the problems would be to have a hydrophone on a boat near L pod as they are approaching Nootka Sound, and somehow transmitting those calls to a speaker near Luna at exactly the right time, to tell him his pod is nearby. In theory that might work, but it would be an expensive operation, especially since the boat and all the required staff would need to be in place and ready to go at all times until the day L pod arrived, which can't be predicted. Also, since we have no idea what information is contained in orca calls we can't say whether the calls would include their location. The most hopeful approach seems to be the one carried out recently by the Mowachaht/Muchalaht stewardship program ˆ the Kakawin Guardians, who led Luna out to the open Pacific on September 15, where he remained for over an hour and seemed quite comfortable. The more time he spends out there the greater the chance that he'll hear his family come by some day and the rest will be up to them.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), October 13, 2005
Q. Why don't they lead Luna away from Nootka Sound by boat? Geoff from Europe
The short answer is that Luna has a line in the water in Nootka Sound between him and the ocean that he won't cross. Possibly he could gradually transcend his self-defined boundary with some encouragement, and a lead-out as you suggest could be done, but there is concern that Luna would become too attached to the humans and/or the boats leading him to his family, and that he would generalize this attachment to other humans and boats, and begin bothering people and their boats wherever he might be led.
It's really quite difficult to say what Luna would do in the presence of orcas from his matriline (his mother's family). Nobody really knows if he would turn away from his family (or be rejected by his family) and seek people or if he would adhere to his relatives, in the short term or the long term. There are very few similar situations to learn from and each case is very different in many ways. Springer (A73) showed us that reunification is not necessarily automatic and immediate, but over a few days Springer reintegrated with her family, and has remained with them ever since. But possibly because Luna is a male and is almost six years old (Springer was just two), and has more years' experience visiting boats, he would be less likely to fully merge with his family.
The belief that Luna will probably rejoin and stick with his family, and therefore stay out of trouble, is based on recent scientific awareness that for orcas, cultural bonds are stronger than any other factor in determining behavior. Culture rules their diet, their mating behavior, their communications, and every other aspect of behavior. For tens of thousands of years fish-eaters and mammal-eaters have been crossing paths all up and down the eastern Pacific coast, and yet the genetic record tells us that there haven't been any mixed pairs frolicking in the gene pool. Similar patterns of "sympatric speciation" have now been documented worldwide. Most established preconceptions about animal behavior are inadequate to explain or predict orca behavior, because the only relevant factor is cultural influence, not instinct, not conditioning, not habituation. According to this hypothesis, Luna will clearly remember that he's an orca from a specific family and that he belongs with them, so any other experiences won't have nearly as much influence on him as his bonds with his actual family.
But at this point nobody knows for sure, and until the authorities are comfortable that Luna won't get into trouble if he's led out to meet his family, there is some hesitation about allowing anyone to attempt such a lead-out. That could change, however, and there may be a new willingness to make use of an opportunity to lead Luna out to his family in the not too distant future.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), August 18, 2005
Q. I notice that the Transients have been around Nootka Sound, do they pose any threat to Luna? Bev from Ottawa, Canada
A. I don't think anyone could say with certainty what would happen if a group of transients chanced upon Luna. Any answer would have to be just a guess when it's a hypothetical question about an unprecedented situation. But drawing on the fact that transients, along with orcas in general, apparently have very prescribed diets that include some prey and exclude other prey, I would guess that killing and eating a solitary resident wouldn't be on their menu. The hypothetical transients might possibly want to just beat Luna up or even kill him, one might imagine, and again that can't be categorically ruled out. I would think, however, that Luna, being a vigorous four-year-old male, would defend himself quite well, or at least the transients might tend to think he could, and that the value of beating him up would not be worth the risk of getting beat up in the process. I think Luna's probably safe from transients, but I hope he doesn't have to find out.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), July 30, 2004
Q. Is there a chance that Luna will not remember his pod the longer that
he stays away? Aileen from Ottawa, Canada
A. For an orca, memory of cultural identity is absolutely critical to survival. Science is just coming to the realization that we are dealing with an animal whose cultural development is much like our own, except that it is entirely non-material, transmitted purely by direct communication and maintained only in memory. We certainly don't know the limits of an orca's memory, but the available evidence tells me there will be mutual recognition of family members for life, even though he was separated at less than two years old. The fact that he still uses his pod's dialect is good evidence in that direction.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), July 14, 2004
Q. Considering noise pollution, ALFA/LFA sonar, mercury, and other forms of pollution - is Luna really any safer "out there" with his pod, than where he is right now? Lucille from Albany, NY, USA
A. I continue to believe that Luna would be happier and healthier with his family, and that the importance of his being with them outweighs concerns about pollution in any form. He probably already got a heavy dose of pollutants from his mom both in the womb and from her milk, and there may be heavy metals in the food web in Nootka Sound as well, so there isn't really any way to escape them, except to have plenty of fish to eat every day, all year around, so the contaminants won't get flushed into his bloodstream if he metabolizes his blubber layers. The risks are probably also about equal that he could go hungry in either scenario. In terms of noise pollution, it's a matter of chance whether he will be exposed to sonars or seismic exploration, and it may be about as likely in either location. It's just very hard to predict, although I believe we should support any efforts to shut down sonars and seismic airguns.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), July 14, 2004
Q. What will happen if they transport Luna all the way to Pedder Bay, then find that his pod has moved on, and he cannot be re-united with them? Candace from Victoria, Canada
A. Since field studies began in the 1970's L pod has been fairly reliable about spending most of the summer in the inland waters, around the San Juans, at least into September. They tend to go in and out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca several times over the summer, so chances are good they will make contact with Luna if he's at Pedder Bay and hears them go by. One problem is that weeks could go by before L pod comes by on their way in or out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Or they may not be vocalizing at the time.
Orcas normally never cease moving, day and night, so any restraint for long periods would have negative effects. It would be hazardous for Luna to stay in a net pen for more than a week or so, because he could lose physical condition from the immobility, as I understand happened with Springer after a month in a pen. This could make it hard for Luna to keep up with his family in the first few days post-release, and that could leave him alone again and possibly eager to visit people in boats.
At this moment it appears Luna might be with the native canoes and there has been some talk of them leading him south to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to return him to his family, which might remove the need for a net pen altogether.
But it sounds like you're asking what would happen if he doesn't rejoin his family at all. That possibility isn't spelled out in the published rescue plan, which only says it would be decided by either DFO or NMFS, whichever country Luna was in at the time he was considered to be a problem.
I'm pretty sure he will rejoin his family, but that question still bothers me as well. I keep hearing that contingency plans include killing Luna or shipping him to a marine park in case the reunification doesn't work. I can't imagine any agency, US or Canadian, would want to capture Luna, much less kill him, simply because he swims alone and goes up to some boats, but this could be a case where the spotlight of public attention could help make sure Luna was not caught and sent to a marine park without an extremely good reason. In a worst case scenario, say if Luna scuttled a boat full of people, I would like to see a plan for containment in a bay pen for a time, allowing more opportunities to rejoin L pod. Hopefully such a course of action would only be a last resort in a desperate situation.
My guess is that Luna will rejoin L pod at the first opportunity, although there may be a few days of rebuilding trusting relationships with family members before he's traveling right alongside them.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), June 18, 2004
Q. Are there fewer or more small boats, ferries, float planes in the area that Luna is to be moved into? Is water quality better or worse in the area that Luna is to be moved into? Dave from Monterey Bay, USA
A. I don't know how many vessels are likely to be in either Nootka Sound or Pedder Bay, but probably in either location Luna's very presence will draw a wide variety of onlookers and add significantly to whatever is the normal level of traffic. Such is the nature of media attention, general curiosity and emotional involvement. This unfolding drama may involve an exercise in public self-restraint, since public education and monitoring, as extensive as they will probably be, may have a hard time keeping everyone at a safe and respectful distance. I guess we'll all need to do our part to remember and remind people to be aware of Luna and his family as worthy of our respect, and their need for peace and quiet to rebuild the trust and relationships that were interrupted about three years ago.
I'm also not familiar with water quality in either location, but unless there are harsh chemicals in the water that could cause skin or eye damage I don't know of any problem in either place. Since the salmon he will be eating, whether in a pen or not, have lived their lives in the open ocean they should have low levels of contaminants.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), June 17, 2004
Q. Do you think the members in L Pod realize that Luna is not with them? Cathryn from Ohio, USA
A. This is a really intriguing question because it asks what the whales are thinking. To get to a reasonable answer we need to look at almost three decades of field research on Luna's extended family (the Southern Resident orca community), and at some experiments with captive dolphins, then look at some theoretical science that has advanced the notion that orcas live within established cultures, then leap ahead to some implications of all of these lines of evidence to make an educated guess at what they may be thinking. It seems like such a simple question.
A lot of this was accomplished in a paper called "Culture in Whales and Dolphins" published in the Journal of Behavioural and Brain Sciences in 2001. (You can find it at http://www.orcanetwork.org/nathist/scifield.html#rendell) The authors found that
"...the complex and stable vocal and behavioural cultures of sympatric [overlapping in the same habitat] groups of killer whales (Orcinus orca) appear to have no parallel outside humans, and represent an independent evolution of cultural faculties."
From this we know that orcas are highly advanced in the complexity of their social systems, so it's reasonable to assume that they are also highly advanced in their mental capabilities and memories.
Also in 2001 a paper was published that showed that dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror. Called "Mirror self-recognition in the bottlenose dolphin: a case of cognitive convergence," this paper (http://www.orcanetwork.org/nathist/scicaptive.html#msr) established that dolphins, like humans, chimps and other great apes, and unlike any other animal, know themselves and behave as distinct individuals, rather than simply reacting to whatever is going on in their environment in a stimulus-response manner. This seems to get a little philosophical but it's described in very precise detail in these papers.
So anyway, if orcas live in cultures and know each other as individual members of their societies, then they would remember each other even after a long absence. Even though he left his family at around 18 months of age, we can guess that before he got lost Luna learned he was a member of his matriline in L pod. Orcas are born, after 17 months' gestation, with brains already around 3 times the size of human brains, and they start to mimic the distinct dialects used by their mothers at about 8 weeks old, so it's entirely possible that Luna was making and understanding his family's calls for over a year when he got separated from them. In that time he could easily have developed his own little orca identity. Probably he was even given a name.
Luna has been vocalizing quite a bit lately, as you can hear at http://www.reuniteluna.com/calls.php, so it seems logical to assume that he is still able to communicate with his family, and they would be able to communicate with him. We saw it happen with Springer two years ago, and in a few weeks we may hear Luna call out to make that initial contact with his family.
My guess is that Luna's family does remember him and they realize he has been missing for about three years. I think they'll welcome him back. I hope we'll see soon.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), June 14, 2004
Q. How does the behavior of a wild orca calf differ from a calf born in captivity, such as a marine park? Mina from Hawaii, USA
A. The differences in behavior between a wild orca calf and a calf born in captivity are stark and dramatic. In general, an orca calf will stay close to its mother in either setting, but in captivity the mother usually has been held in a tank for most, or all, of her life, so she may not have learned how to take care of her baby. With no grandmother or extended family around to help and give guidance, sometimes mothers neglect their babies, and if that happens they usually die within a few days. Caretakers at marine parks have learned to simulate a calf's nudges on the expectant female's mammary slits to teach her to release her milk so the calf may survive long enough to be fed fish within a few months.There are now 27 captive-born orca calves still alive, according to the excellent records at www.orcahome.de
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), June 11, 2004
Q. Could Lolita and Luna be related? Robin from USA
A. Luna and Lolita are both members L pod of the Southern Residents so they are certainly related. Exactly how closely related they are we have no way to know, because we don't know who Lolita's mother is, or if she's still alive. We don't have a DNA sample from Lolita or from most of L pod, and the lab work would be prohibitively expensive, so we're not likely to find out, but chances are Lolita and her family would know who they are, so it's not essential for us to know.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), May 31, 2004
Q. How many orcas travel in the Lpod? Michelle from USA
A. According to the Center for Whale Research, as of October 2003, the population totals 83 (not including L-98 in Nootka Sound and Lolita at Miami Seaquarium), about 17% higher than it was after ten years of captures in 1976. All three Southern Residents pods were reduced in number during 1965-75 as a result of captures for marine parks. At least 13 orcas were killed during captures, and 45 were delivered to marine parks around the world, of which only Lolita remains alive. L pod, with 41 members, is by far the largest resident pod. L pod has two mature males, five sprouter males and sixteen juvenile whales.
Center For Whale Research, May 18, 2004
Q. Is it possible for whales to kill themselves due to lonliness? Randall from Seattle, USA
A. This is a very interesting question because it goes straight to two questions that are hotly debated: Can whales feel the pain of loneliness, and are whales so aware of their own lives that they can deliberately end them? There will probably always be a certain amount of interpretation in any answer, but in theory and in some data there is good reason to answer in the affirmative to both questions.
There seems to be tremendous individual variation in the response to social deprivation among solitary or captive orcas, which could depend on their particular memories or whatever goes into building strength and character among orcas. Once separated from their families, can they hope and dream of a better day? There's no reason to rule that out, and if they can, can they also feel hopeless and depressed? That seems to be the case sometimes.
Breathing for cetaceans is under voluntary, conscious control. Other bodily functions like maintaining body temperature and immune response may also be at least partly under conscious control, and like breathing, may be done in synch with the other members of their family groups. If they find themselves separated from their family group, their emotions about their situation may influence those functions. If they don't actively operate their breathing and their immune systems at full strength, they may become subject to a wide variety of common diseases, like pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. In fact, pneumonia is one of the most common causes of death for captive orcas, along with other opportunistic infections. So it's possible that simply by losing the support of their family, some solitary or captive orcas and other dolphins may effectively allow themselves to die.
Howard Garrett (www.orcanetwork.org), February 28, 2004
Q. How are Luna's and Keiko's lives different? Leesa from Friday Harbor, USA
A. Keiko's life and Luna's life may have some similarities, but there are some basic differences that make the efforts done to release Keiko far more risky, more expensive and more complicated than any plan to reunite Luna with his pod. Keiko was violently ripped from his family, then taken thousands of miles away and kept in tanks for two decades. Meanwhile his family continued to be captured for the marine park industry, and we don't know how many, if any, survived.
Plus, there is virtually no scientific knowledge about the social communities of North Atlantic orcas. Very little photo-identification field work has been done, or acoustic recording, or DNA sampling. Together those studies could have located Keiko's family within a few years. Luna's extended family, the southern resident community, has been continually documented for over 25 years. Each individual is identified each year, often dozens of times. We know their birth dates, their relationships, and we know generally how and when they use their habitat. Mainly, we know where to find them for much of each year. If that kind of information had been available for Keiko, assuming his family was still intact, there would have been little problem in placing him in close proximity to them, and the probable result would have been that Keiko would have rejoined them and would still be alive today, and for many years to come.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), December 16, 2003
Q. Why is it so important for Luna to be
reunited with his pod? Alicia from USA
A. Orcas are VERY social whales, and are tightly bonded with their family pod. Resident (fish-eating) orca offspring do not leave their mothers their entire life, swimming alongside their Mom, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, grandmothers and great-grandmothers forever, constantly in physical or acoustical contact with their pod. This is very different from many other animals -including humans (and some of our mothers may be relieved about this)!
The only two cases of lone orcas we know of in the 30 years of research on the Northern and Southern Resident Communities of whales are Springer and Luna. Springer most likely got left behind when her mother died and she couldn't keep up with her pod, as she was very young. We are still not sure how Luna got separated, as his mother is still alive. One theory is that he was traveling with his uncle, who died the year Luna became separated from the pod. Luna may have fallen behind the pod while his uncle was sick, and left alone when his uncle died.
But the fact that orcas are so social make it very difficult for young (or even older) orcas to live alone. That is why they seek out the company of humans in the absence of other related whales. This happened with Springer and Luna, and with Keiko, who is still in Norway trying to find his family. This is also why whales in marine parks bond with their trainers - they are removed from their families and forced into a situation away from their pod where they have only humans for company.
When watching orcas in the wild, you will see how close they travel together, especially the moms & calves, and how they like to rub against each other and talk to each other. When a calf like Springer or Luna gets separated, they become very lonely - there is no one to rub up against, so they have to rub up against boats and docks and seaplanes. There is no one to talk to, so they seek out people who pay attention to them.
There are some who say Luna is a "bad" whale because of his behaviors of approaching people and boats. But Luna is only trying to fill the empty void left by losing his mom and pod, and trying to find comfort and company in any way he can. We are sure that if Luna would only be given the chance to rejoin his pod, he would happily leave humans alone and stick really close to his family, much as Springer has since her return.
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), December 14, 2003
Q. Could you please describe the net pen that Luna would be kept in if all goes as planned (size, etc)? Randle from Chicago IL, USA
A. In DFO's Luna Intervention and Relocation Action Plan, they call for a holding pen in Nootka Sound with minimum dimensions of 40 ft x 40 ft. - this period of holding would be for the minimum period possible, and Luna would be held only long enough to do the required medical testing before his move to south Vancouver Island. Then Luna would be moved to Pedder Bay and held in a net pen with a minimum of 50 ft x 50 ft dimensions in preparation for release. It is hoped Luna will make acoustic contact with his pod shortly after his arrival, and can then be released to join them. Springer spent less than 24 hours in her net pen off Hanson Island before being released, but was held for a month in a net pen in Puget Sound for medical testing. It is our hope that Luna's total time in net pens will be only a week or two at most, to minimize contact with humans and to make sure he stays in shape so he can keep up with his pod for the winter. The actual size of the net pen could be larger than the minimum requirements, depending on who is chosen to carry out the plan.
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), October 27, 2003
Q. I was wondering why the media keeps refering to Luna an
an "American whale", and that they want to return Luna
"south to it's native American waters"? Julia from Victoria BC, Canada
A. These whales don't belong to anyone or any one country or state or province - they were here WAY before any of us were here to put our boundaries and borders on the waters that they live and travel in! I believe what happens is that because the Northern Resident whales typically spend their time in Canadian waters (though they do travel into Washington waters occasionally and into Alaskan waters as well), they are sometimes thought of as "Canadian" whales; and since the Southern Residents spend more time in US waters (though they also travel into Canadian waters), they are sometimes thought of as "American" whales. Since we do have boundaries and different governments, different officials are responsible for the research, regulation, and care of the whales depending on which country's waters the whales are in at the moment. That is why it was the US National Marine Fisheries Service, or NOAA Fisheries, that made the decision to move Springer "home" to Johnstone Strait; just as DFO has made the decision to move Luna back to southern Vancouver Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Luna will likely cross the border when released near his family (which was just sighted on Oct. 10th in the waters off S. Whidbey Island and off N. Seattle), and while in US waters will be under the jurisdiction of NOAA Fisheries. I think for orcas, "home" is being with their pod, wherever they happen to be.....
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), October 11, 2003
Q. What is the normal size of an adult orca? Ralph from Europe
A. The killer whale is the largest member of the dolphin family. Its size, striking black and white colouring, and tall dorsal fin are unmistakable. Males reach lengths of 8 or 9 metres and weigh up to 5 tonnes. Females are smaller at 7 metres and 4 tonnes. Killer whales are mainly black above and white below, with an oval white patch behind each eye. In adult males, the paddle-shaped flippers are very large and the tips of the tail flukes curl down.
The first sight of a killer whale is usually its dorsal fin. In fully grown males, this fin sticks straight up, often as high as 1.8 metres. In females and young whales, the fin is curved and less than one metre high. Behind every dorsal fin there is a grey area called a saddle patch. The shape of the dorsal fin and the saddle patch, as well as natural nicks and scars on them, are unique to each killer whale. By photographing the dorsal fin of killer whales, researchers can tell individual whales apart.
DFO Orca Primer, October 4, 2003
Q. What will happen if Luna's pod is gone before he gets there? Kathy from Halifax NS, Canada
A. DFO will have failed the Southern Residents immeasurably. However, I believe we'll get him down here in time to connect with L-Pod, and specifically the L67 subgroup -- his mom. We know where these whales are almost every day, plus we now are assembling a great coalition of researchers, observers and whale watch operators to monitor their movements. Given the late date we've been saddled with and the infrequency of the whales in October and November, and the objective to reduce human contact, we believe that we should consider leading him out of the seapen when the opportunity presents itself and directly into L-Pod, should they be somewhere near the site. We need to maximize our chances of reunification. That being said, I just happened to be watching some of the video from Springer's reintroduction last year and it truly is fascinating -- the images of wild whales approaching the seapen upon hearing Springer's calls, and then the chatter back and forth. How the wild orcas lined up in a row, drifting toward the pen. From what OrcaLab tells us, it was the furthest into Dongchong Bay that these whales have ever been spotted. They literally came to collect Springer. It's our gut feeling that the same magic will occur with Luna and his family.
Michael Harris, Orca Conservancy (www.OrcaConservancy.com), October 4, 2003
Q. Do you still think there’s a good chance Luna will bond with his pod before
they leave? Judy from California, USA
A. This is THE question that has bewitched the scientific panel and DFO authorities for the past two years. They have generally answered with a NO, and that pessimistic answer may be the main reason behind the lack of intervention by DFO. I believe DFO's conclusions have been based on obsolete assumptions.
In short, yes, I believe there is a good chance Luna will rejoin his family pod if he is reunited with them very soon, before they depart for parts unknown. Of course this is an opinion about a future event, and there may be many unseen variables involved, so it's impossible to be 100% certain, but the scientific evidence and historical record lead me to believe there will be immediate mutual recognition as soon as Luna and his family are within acoustic range of one another. The process of mutual reintroduction, that is, getting to know each other again and truly rebonding, may take a little longer, and may involve a gradual process of rebuilding trust, but I can't imagine that Luna will lose his focus on his mother and family. I think he'll persevere until he's welcomed and included back into the family.
The scientific support for this view falls into two main categories. First is the finding from almost 30 years of demographic field research that family membership in the matriline (mother and offspring, sometimes up to four generations) is permanent. We don't know for sure how Luna got separated from his mom, but since studies began there have been no observations of rejection or aggression within any matrilines, pods or communities, so there is little evidence to support the idea that he was rejected. He just got separated somehow and has been away for a while.
The other line of support for Luna's chances of reuniting with his family is the accumulated evidence that orcas live in societies that are, in fact, separate and distinct cultures, based on traditions, much like human cultures. For instance, Luna would probably not know the vocalizations used by Northern resident orcas, nor those of any other community, but there is no reason to doubt that he still knows the calls of his family, the Southern residents. The same is probably true of a variety of behaviours related to eating, playing, or just relating. He'll soon remember how to communicate and how to behave appropriately once he's back among them. Orca brains are five times the size of human brains, which indicates a capacity for enormous memory retention, and studies have shown that orca babies begin to mimic their mother's calls in the first five or six weeks after birth.
He's certainly learned some inappropriate behaviours in the past two years, but as we saw with Springer, there are social controls on behaviour within orca communities, and old habits can be replaced with new habits. It takes pod to raise an orca. Luna just needs his pod.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 29, 2003
Q. Have the Southern Residents been seen lately? Ginger from Saskatoon SK, Canada
A. J, K & L pods were last reported in the San Juans on Sept. 21st, then weren't seen for a few days, but early this morning (Sept. 25) J pod showed up off San Juan Island - no reports yet of K's & L's. This time of year, the Southern Residents' travel patterns get more erratic. They tend to take off out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, or head down into Puget Sound waters chasing salmon runs. Historically, at the beginning of October, J pod would stick around the inland waters while K & L pods would head out into the ocean to points unknown. However, the past three years K and L pods have also remained in the inland waters into January or February. It is our hope they will continue this pattern this year so we know where they are when/if Luna returns, and to give researchers some time to observe Luna with his pod before they take off for their winter travels.
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 25, 2003
Q. What is the weather like this time of year on the west coast? Will it hurt Luna's chances for reunification? Charmaine from Paris, France
A. The Whales seem to love the weather, whatever it is! We just received a report today of high seas off San Juan Island, with the orcas LOVING it and surfing in the waves. It's people who are bothered by the weather, and rough weather could make things difficult for transporting Luna. However, several options are available, including transporting Luna via a tank on the back of a flatbed truck down to south or SW Vancouver Island. The good thing about bad weather is that we are approaching the season where recreational boating will decrease, and that could be helpful in breaking Luna of his habit of approaching boats and people.....though we believe this problem will largely be taken care of when Luna gets back with his own kind to keep him company.
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 19, 2003
Q. Where is the L Pod right now? Will they be around in a few weeks if Luna is reunited? Carol from Penticton BC, Canada
A. L pod has been reported swimming and feeding with J and K pods in the San Juan and Gulf Islands, occasionally heading west out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but basically staying around the area. Historically, L and K pods have been around this area reliably until early October, then have headed out to sea and parts unknown for most of the winter (K and L pods have shown up in Monterey Calif twice in the spring - Luna was with them on one of those trips!). However, the last four or five years all three pods have been staying around until January or February, trekking down into lower Puget Sound following the salmon runs. Our best guess is that they will continue the pattern of staying around into winter again this year, given the abundant salmon runs.
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 19, 2003
Q. When I contacted DFO and spoke to Marilyn Joyce about Luna, one of the comments Marilyn made was that they still had concerns about the success of Springer's reintroduction because she had been seen traveling from pod to pod during the summer. However, other reports I have heard about Springer have been that the reintroduction has been successful. Is it a concern that Springer sometimes travels from pod to pod? Sandy from Jacksonville FL, USA
A. Resident orcas tend to spend more time socializing between pods during the summer months when all the pods are together, especially interactions between related pods. The Southern Residents often travel in groups with combinations of whales from 2 different pods, and certain whales seem to spend more time socializing/traveling with other pods. In fact, when Luna was born, he spent time with K pod whales in the weeks following his birth, which is unusual for a newborn calf, leading to some speculation that maybe L67 was still learning how to be a mom, or just wasn't as attentive as other mom orcas. But especially for Springer, it seems it would be normal for her to travel between the pods that make up her extended family since her mother isn't living, and the fact that she made it through the winter travels of her extended pods and returned this summer would verify that she is an accepted and healthy member of the community, able to keep up with them physically and socially.
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 17, 2003
Q. When they moved Springer back, she was held in a pen for a day or two while
they waited for her pod. Will this happen with Luna? Where is the best
location for this pen? Is there a spot picked already? Treena from Fort Nelson BC, USA
A. The scientific panel is working on those plans now, so we don't know exactly what will happen with Luna, but a similar pen is a likely solution. Somewhere in the range of L pod would be best, which includes the south end of Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands. There are several locations in both places that would work, but no spot has been picked as of this date.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 17, 2003
Q. If a bay pen is built, as suggested by the Orca Network, wouldn’t it be built in U.S. waters? Once Luna is in the area of the Southern Residents, isn’t it then the responsibility of the U.S. Government to oversee his care? Judy from USA
A. This is true. Then the attention would be on NMFS. I expect they would act about the same as DFO. The first problem is still to get DFO to do something, but eventually it may be up to NMFS. A bay pen could be set up along the south end of Vancouver Island, or on San Juan Island, so it could be in either country.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 5, 2003
Q. What is the the average life expectency of a wild orca. What is the oldest Orca on record? Sameul (age 14) from Nanaimo, BC, Canada
A. The short answer is that female orcas average just over 50 years longevity, and males average just under 30 years. The oldest known orcas are two females (K7 and J2), still living, who were estimated to have been born in 1910 and 1911, and one male (J1), also still alive, who was born in or near 1951.
These data come from early field studies (1973-1987) and may reflect the effects of live captures during 1964-1976, in which approximately 68 orcas were removed or killed from the Northern and Southern Resident orca communities, as well as the effects of PCB contamination on generations born after about 1960, when background PCB counts began to rise steeply. Males are especially vulnerable to the effects of PCBs, which may help explain their higher mortality. Neonate mortality rates (43%) may also be heavily impacted by PCB toxicity.
The short and long answers come from: Olesiuk, P.F., M.A. Bigg and G.M. Ellis (Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, B.C., Canada V9R 5K6) (1990). Life history and population dynamics of resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the coastal waters of British Columbia and Washington State. From the abstract:
Life history parameters are derived for the resident form of killer whale in the coastal waters of British Columbia and Washington State based on the demographic changes observed in two communities (closed to immigration and emigration) that were monitored between 1973-4 and 1987. Females have a mean life expectancy of 50.2 years, typically give birth to their first viable calf at 14.9 years of age, produce an average of 5.35 viable calves over a 25.2 year reproductive lifespan and have a maximum longevity of about 80-90 years. Calving is diffusely seasonal with most births occurring in October-March. Neonate mortality is approximately 43%. The estimated proportion of mature females pregnant varies from 0.274 in April to 0.411 in September. Males have a mean life expectancy of 29.2 years, typically attain sexual maturity at 15.0 years and physical maturity at 21.0 years of age, and have a maximum longevity of about 50-60 years.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 5, 2003
Q. Why do orcas surface all at the same time? When you see a family of orcas, no orca surfaces unless the others surface with him or her. Jeff from Burnaby, BC, Canada
A. That's generally true, but real synchronicity down to split second timing of blows happens far less than half of the time. But it does happen a lot, and the question of why they do that goes to the question of what their relationships and traditions are, and there isn't a lot of theory on those topics. Why do people sometimes hold hands when they're talking? The best guess is that there is some socializing going on and they're just keeping in contact in many ways, including synchronous breathing.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 2, 2003
Q. What are some behavioral patterns of a lone, injured Orca? Angela from Campbell River BC, Canada
A. Luna's case is so unique that I don't think there are any general answers to that question. It was only in January of 2002 that Springer and Luna suddenly appeared, violating the accepted rule that resident orcas never leave their families. Now we know there can be special circumstances where a lone resident orca can make it alone, even under the age of 2. Not once, but twice at the same time. So almost everything they do is the first time anyone has seen what a lone orca would do in any circumstance.
Also, it would depend on the injury. So far, I believe the injuries haven't been severe enough to change his behavior. I hope he develops a healthy respect for propellors, if that's what did the damage. Usually prop damage is easy to spot because there are multiple parallel slices. If he is severely injured I think he would accept all the professional care that could be offered. Whales in distress seem to know when humans want to help them, and they tend to hold still even while, for instance, ropes that are six inches deep in their skin are being cut out.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), September 2, 2003
Q. Will Luna be strong enough to keep up with his family once reunited. Is he
now making many trips back and forth in Gold River to keep him conditioned
for a long journey back home? Brian, Linda, Kristen and Josh from Wainwright, AB, Canada
A. Luna has been quite active during his time in Gold River. Marc Pakenham said Luna has been swimming approx. 50 miles per day, and has been eating well and staying healthy, so he should be in pretty good shape to keep up with his family. In contrast, Springer had been staying in a smaller area during her stay in Puget Sound, and then was kept in a net pen for a month before her return, restricting her movement and keeping her from getting the exercise she needed. But she still managed to be able to keep up with her pod within a few days of her return, and to keep up with them during their winter travels. We believe Luna's chances of reuniting with his pod and keeping up with them are even better than Springer's, and she is doing great!
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 31, 2003
Q. How do whales behave when they sustain injuries similar to Luna's; are they like dogs and do they go into hiding licking their wounds, or do they seek help from other whales? Irene from Hamilton ON, Canada
A. By now you've seen how Luna behaves, and all individuals will act differently. I predict that Luna has not acted any differently since receiving this wound, but would hope that the experience acts as a negative reinforcement and has taught him to stay away from the business end of boats.
Pete Schroder, Marine Mammal Veterinarian, August 31, 2003
Q. How long does it take a wound like Luna's to heal? Katlyn from Vancouver BC, Canada
A. It's impossible to give a precise timeline for a wound I can't see, or even one I could see for that matter. I co-authored a paper that could have some bearing on predictability of healing in an orca (a big dolphin), Epidermal cell proliferation in the bottlenose dolphin, Brown, Geraci, et. al., Canadian Journal of Zoology, volume 61, number 7, 1983, pages 1587-1590, in which we reported that the proliferation index of bottlenose dolphin epidermal cells is 1.3 to 1.9 times higher than that reported for terrestrial mammals. The size of the wound has been reported to be from 6 x 2 inches to 8 x 2 inches. If the wound occurred one week ago, and Luna is in good health, there should be significant healing visible now. If the wound looks the same or worse after 7 to 14 days I would be concerned about infection. There was probably some bruising along with the wound that would also have to heal, but I've seen much bigger wounds from shark bites heal in bottlenose dolphins, with treatment, in that time period. I've also seen wounds this size heal with out leaving a scar, and evidence of much larger wounds healing, in the wild, leaving scars. Scaring seems to be wound size related. It would be interesting to hear if Luna's behaviour toward small boat contact has changed since this negative experience. If not, that is one more reason to hope he can be moved to his L pod cohorts as soon as possible.
Pete Schroder, Marine Mammal Veterinarian, August 31, 2003
Q. I've read about the half-brain shut down that orca utilize to rest but am wondering how often they rest and for how long? Also, do they sing while
resting? Paulette from Victoria BC, Canada
A. It is believed that all whales and dolphins (and porpoises) shut down half of their brains at a time while resting. Twenty years ago that was considered New Age woo-woo stuff, but gradually scientists checked it out and found out it was true. Just how often orcas go into a resting pattern as a group varies a lot, but as I recall they rest around 10% of the time. Vocalizations are rare while resting. It could be that they can also rest in small groups or individually for short periods.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaLab.com), August 28, 2003
Q. Orca Network was reporting some Northern Residents in the Haro Strait
recently.. any news of who they were ID wise? Jen from Vancouver BC, Canada
A. Well, we received some pictures back that were taken from the Annie Mae during the big evening showdown and the only whale we can ID is (drum roll please) L73. If anyone else has pictures from that evening we'd love to see them, but I think it's pretty safe to say that it was L pod, not Northern Residents. It seems highly unlikely that a big group of NR's could have snuck in past all the boats from Victoria and/or down Haro Strait without being seen to show up right where a bunch of L pod whales were seen only minutes before (according to Soundwatch and Tom McMillan of Salish Sea Charters). Thanks to Adam at the Center for Whale Research for helping with this answer.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 27, 2003
Q. Is there an estimated cost with trying to reunite Luna with his Pod? Is this part of the problem why nothing is being done? Gloria from
A. The cost would depend on the method chosen to bring Luna close to his family. Prior to Luna's move, by any method, it may be determined that a team is needed to capture him and examine him for diseases, which would involve marine mammal trainers and veterinary specialists. If a boat-follow method is used, the cost would include fuel and crew. If a truck or boat transport method is used the cost would include fuel and crew and more handling and logistics. All of the above would probably be paid by public donations in short order, so the possible expense is probably not the reason that nothing is being done.
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 27, 2003
Q. How far away from home is Luna? Peg from New York, USA
A. For orcas, home is a very fluid thing. That's not just because they live in the ocean, but their home is truly their togetherness. So the question is: "how far away is Luna's family?" The answer changes by the hour, and is only known sporadically, and sometimes their whereabouts is not known for days or weeks. It is predictable, however, that L pod, Luna's family, will forage in the waters around the San Juan Island and the mouth of the Fraser River during summer months, and will likely range further south into Puget Sound in the fall and winter. They may also cruise north or south along the outer coast for days or weeks at a time. The best chance of reuniting Luna with his family would be to bring him into the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca or Haro Strait in the next few months, the sooner the better.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 27, 2003
Q. How are the Northern Residents named? Anthony from Saskatoon SK, Canada
A. The Northern Residents are named after features of geography; islands, passes, points of land, rivers, etc. For example Blackney (A38) is named after Blackney pass; Tsitika (A30) after the Tsitika which runs into Robson Bight; Springer (A73) was named after Springer Point on Sonora Island. The idea to name the whales this way came form John Ford. The choice of name usually comes form a discussion among people in whale adoption programs.
Dr. Paul Spong, Orca Lab (www.orcalab.org), August 26, 2003
Q. Based on Springer's success story do you feel confident that Luna's situation will turn out the same? Michael from Edmonton AB, Canada
A. I feel reasonably confident. Shamu was captured and ended up in San Diego very successfully; a much longer and more complicated move. Springer's team could accomplish Luna's move to the San Juan's in the same manner we moved her to Johnstone Strait last summer: very carefully, with lots of interagency and interdisciplinary planning, cooperation and coordination.
Pete Schroder, Marine Mammal Veterinarian, August 23, 2003
Q. How is Luna's story different from Springer's? Albert from East Lansing, MI, USA
A. Luna is an older male, in much better health that Springer was last year when we rescued her. He is apparently feeding himself quite well, as compared to Springer who was just eating enough to stay alive and feed her parasites. They are similar in that they are both in jeopardy from people in boats of all kinds, especially during the summer. Puget sound is bigger, has more boats and, where Springer was, 74 ferry crossings per day. However, a large male orca like Luna has a greater potential to do harm to humans than A73 did. The longer he is in his current location, the greater the chances some human will do him harm. The story of Keiko is an example of what Luna could become. An expensive, loveable, nusiance costing a lot of money and human resources to keep him reatively safe, but doing little to relocate him back to his natal pod.
Pete Schroder, Marine Mammal Veterinarian, August 22, 2003
Q. Have you seen Springer since her release and how do you feel about her reunification? Kim from Calgary, Canada
A. Yes, with the help of Joseph Bettis and Bill Mackay. On July 22 we were on MacKay's whale watching boat out of Port McNeil and saw her several times south east of Robson Bight. She passed close enough to take pictures so we identified her that way, as well as by recognition. We saw her again the morning of July 23 when she passed under the Shadow, just north west of Cormorant Island.
Pete Schroder, Marine Mammal Veterinarian, August 22, 2003
Q. When the leader of a pod
dies and the oldest female takes over the lead, is this pod then renamed
with her "number"? Micky from Barendrecht, the Netherlands
A. The naming and renaming of subpods is somewhat in flux, and may always be so. After the elder female dies, the sisters and brothers may still stay together for a while, so they can still be considered a subpod of their deceased matriarch. The change from one matriline to the next generation's matriline(s) seems to be a fairly gradual process. Sisters may hang together for a few years before getting some distance between them as they increasingly focus attention on their own progeny. So the common usage of how to name the subpod is not a set thing. Photo-identification field studies have only been going on since 1973, so there have only been a few cases of matriarchs dying and sisters forming their own matrilines, and they never do get very far away from each other, so it's hard to pin down an exact time to rename subpods.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 21, 2003
Q. When Corky was captured she spoke the dialect of her pod and if I remember correctly she can still recognize their voices and calls. So did Corky teach the new captive babies to speak her language? Mary LIz from Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada
A. Regarding Corky and other captives, apparently the they learn each others' dialects; Corky "speaks" Icelandic as well as A5.
Dr. Paul Spong, Orca Lab (www.orcalab.org), August 19, 2003
Q. When is the next meeting of the DFO’s Scientific Panel? Many People from Canada and US
A. We receive this question several times a day. The short answer is no one is quite sure, but it should be within the next few weeks. We have asked many scientists and DFO officials. The challenge in arranging a meeting is that there are many decision makers on vacation right now. Most of the key people will be back from holiday on August 25, so that would be the earliest meeting date. However, we are cautioned that it will take a few days to get everyone back up to speed and organized so the next meeting may be as late as the end of the first week of September. We must stress that there is no firm date for a meeting, but these are the best estimates and things could easily change.
The panel is made up of a dozen to fifteen people from Canada and the US. They meet via conference call.
In our conversations with DFO officials, they said that they have received a large amount of letters, faxes and email regarding Luna and they really appreciate hearing the public’s opinion. At ReuniteLuna.com, we have heard that we should keep writing letters because the Minister’s Office has become interested in Luna’s case.
ReuniteLuna.com Volunteers, August 18, 2003
Q. Do the captive orcas also speak to each other? Or is there no reason for captive orcas to communicate in this fashion? I believe they do make the
echolation clicks but is that it? Mary LIz from Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada
A. The short answer is yes, captive orcas do learn and use each other's calls. When Hyak II was captured in 1968 from the A5 pod (Northern community) he was put in the tank at Vancouver Public Aquarium occupied by Skana, captured a year earlier from K pod (Southern community. Hyak proceeded to learn and use Skana's calls (and presumably vice-versa) until she died in 1980. A few months later two Icelandic orcas, Finna and Bjossa, were brought to the Aquarium, whereupon Hyak learned and used their calls, becoming trilingual until he died in 1991.
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 17, 2003
Q. Is Luna calling for his family? Is he vocalizing? Tennille from Burnaby, BC, Canada
A. I went out with John (Ford), Graeme (Ellis), Ken (Balcomb), Lance (Barrett-Lennard) et al this spring (2003) when they did a play back experiment with Luna. We had two boats. The boat I was in was with Luna and was using a hydrophone to record Luna and the playbacks, and the other boat was a measured distance away to simulate a feasible distance of whales passing by and was playing calls. I believe Alaskan resident calls, humpback calls and L-pod calls were tried, with very little response to any from Luna. John was recording the whole time, and although Luna's behavior did not change much he was vocalizing the whole time. It was an extremely windy, rainy day and we could barely, if at all, hear the playbacks through our hydrophone on the boat with Luna--I question whether he heard them as he was very keen on our boat and the conditions were so lousy. We also had a large tug and log boom pass between us at one point.
To answer your questions more simply:
No, I do not believe that anyone has systematically been recording Luna's vocalizations over the past two years to determine any specific calls or changes in Luna's vocal pattern. This, and the lack of other scientific inquiry, are baffling to me.
Yes, Luna vocalizes, we don't know what kind of "calls" if any. Dr. John Ford has the recordings.
Kari Koski, the Whale Museum's Soundwatch Stewardship Program, August 17, 2003
Q. What are the speed limits for boats when they are around Orcas? Jean from Portsmouth, United Kindgom
A. When in the vicinity of whales please:
Slow down: reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 meters/yards of the nearest whale. AVOID ABRUPT COURSE CHANGES. 400 meters/yards is the SLOW ZONE
AVOID approaching CLOSER than 100 meters/yards to any whale.
If your vessel is within 100 meters/yards to any whale - STOP IMMEDIATELY and allow the whales to pass. 100 meters/yards is the NO GO ZONE
As well please:
STAY on the OFFSHORE side of the whales when they are travelling close to shore. Remain at least 200 meters/yards offshore at all times.
AVOID approaching whales from the front or from behind. Always approach and depart whales from the side, moving in a direction parallet to the direction of the whales.
Click here to download a PDF brochure containing whale watching guidelines.
Howard Garrett, www.OrcaNetwork.org & Gail Laurie, ReuniteLuna.com, August 16, 2003
Q. Why doesn’t the RCMP lay more fines for people who are interfering with Luna? Dorreen from Richmond BC, Canada
A. We asked Corporal Jacquie Olsen at the Gold River R.C.M.P. detachment to help us with this answer. The RCMP have issued two tickets, both resulting in fines. Just like any crime, people need to report them and there must be credible witnesses. In the two cases, the RCMP witnessed the crime. No citizen has come forward to report a crime. If someone sees a crime involving Luna, they are encouraged to contact an RCMP office. Tickets and fines will be issued if the RCMP officers believe that a case can be made in court. Successful court cases rely on credible witnesses.
Ryan, ReuniteLuna.com, August 14, 2003
Q. If (when) they finally agree to try to reunite Luna with his family what is the deadline so he won't miss his pod? Woobies from California, USA
A. Historically, K & L pods have left for the open ocean (or California or the Queen Charlottes or wherever else they go in the winter!) around the first of October. HOWEVER, the past four or five years all three pods have been hanging around much longer -- well into January, and sometimes even into early February. The spend their time in the lower Puget Sound area (down around Whidbey Island, to Seattle and Vashon Island, presumably following chum runs). Since this is likely based on where the most and best fish are, it is not known for sure what this year will bring, but the salmon runs everywhere seem to be good this year, so our guess is they'll hang around the inland waters and the Strait of Juan de Fuca through the fall and into early winter.
It would be best to get Luna to his pod as soon as possible, though early or mid-September would probably be optimal, as there are less recreational boaters around. But we need to make sure Luna has the time to readjust. We are fearful of some scientists, whale advocates, and likely DFO, who believe Luna should only be given one try, and if there isn't instant success at rejoining his family, feel he should be taken into captivity. We hope a decision is made and actions are taken as soon as possible to get him back with his family so he will have enough time to make the transition.
The other even more pressing matter is the danger he is in during fishing season at Gold River and in Nootka Sound. Though we understand DFO's concern about boaters/people in the Puget Sound area, there is also more room for Luna to roam, and more importantly, his family to roam with and socialize with so he won't need to seek out boats and human company.
It will likely take a week or two to get plans confirmed and a cooperative agreement with NOAA fisheries once DFO makes a decision, and we will be running out of time if that decision isn't made soon. If we could be totally assured that the K's & L's will stick around like they have the past few years, we could wait until October or November to move Luna, but that could be somewhat of a gamble if the whales decide to go back to their past pattern of leaving the area in early October.
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 14, 2003
Q. When an Orca is injured like A60, do any of the other pod members act differently? Are they more protective, indifferent, etc.? Judy from Hayword, CA, USA
A. All we really have to go on are a few observations of orca behavior around sick or injured podmates. I have seen orcas who are too sick to keep up with their family, who day by day fall further behind until they stop and finally die. Sometimes close family has stayed behind for a while, but the pod simply must keep moving, so sooner or later the dying family member is left behind. We just don't know what may be going on emotionally or even acoustically when that happens.
There are other stories, such as the one in the book Killer Whales, by Ford, Ellis and Balcomb, in which a calf that was injured by a boat was tended to and held at the surface. The report says: "The cow and the bull cradled the injured calf between them to prevent it from turning upside-down." Fifteen days later there was another report of "two whales supporting a third one, preventing it from turning over." While studying orcas near Norway researcher Astrid van Ginniken once saw an apparent ceremony around the lifeless body of a calf.
Overall, it's still an open question.
I also would like to add about orcas helping other wounded orcas. Though it's not really a case of being wounded, it's a similar situation in which orcas were observed helping a family member. When a very young calf, Tweak, lost his mother and was unable to feed himself, his brother and uncle were observed catching fish, tearing it into small pieces & trying to feed it to the young calf that was still feeding on mother's milk. Unfortunately the calf was too young to eat the fish and didn't make it, but the video Ken Balcomb took of the brother and uncle trying to keep the calf fed and alive was something I'll never forget - Susan Berta
Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 13, 2003
Q. How will Luna be moved, if approval is given? Randy from Nelson, BC, Canada
A. This depends on DFO and the Scientific Panel. Several scientists have proposed a boat-follow method, where Luna is lured out of Nootka Sound and down south toward his family by a boat. This is the least intrusive method, and involves no capture or "artificial" transport of Luna. The other methods being discussed are either transporting him via a boat, as was done with Springer, or transporting him on the back of a large truck (both of these methods would involved putting Luna in a sling, lifting him from the water, moving him into a small tank with water and ice, then back into the water once close to his home and family).
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 13, 2003
Q. Is there private money available to move Luna? How much will it cost? Kelly from Portland, OR, USA
A. There is private money that has been offered to move Luna by at least one anonymous source. A proposal was submitted to DFO earlier in the year offering this paid move of Luna, but was turned down. Other non-profit organizations have offered to raise money (Orca Network just had a fundraiser for Lolita & Luna Friday night), and many individuals are willing to pitch in money, volunteer efforts and donations. Nichols Bros. Boat Builders, who supplied the boat for Springer's move have again offered their boat and services, and the UChuck boat in Nootka Sound has offered to help transport Luna. The cost of Luna's move depends on the method. If a boat-follow method is used, it could be relatively inexpensive. If a capture/transport method is used, it would cost more because a professional capture team would be required, but at this time it is difficult to calculate the costs.
Susan Berta (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 13, 2003
Q. How does the boat traffic affect the Southern Pods? Andrea from Victoria BC, Canada
A. The boat interaction issue is a big one with a lot of people, but we tend to think it is less of a problem than many make it out to be. However, it is still very important to continue to educate the public about how to behave respectfully around whales. The whale watching operators have been very cooperative in minimizing their impact by giving the whales a wide corridor to travel in, by not speeding around whales, and by sitting still as much as possible (the NW Whale Watch Operators Assoc. has already agreed to stay away from L pod when Luna is returned, and they can be helpful in keeping recreational boaters away as well). The best authority on boat/whale interactions is Ken Balcomb, who's been out there with whales almost daily since 1976, long before there was any whale watching. He believes the whales have learned to live with the boats rather than change their behavior to avoid the boats, and that is what the best studies have shown. We are somewhat dismayed that the boat issue has at times drowned out the more crucial issues, like availability of food, toxic chemicals in the food, and Navy sonars.
Susan Berta and Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 12, 2003
Q. Did any Southern Residents go missing this past winter? Paula from Vancouver WA, USA
A. We did lose some Southern Residents this year, though luckily the number of births still was higher than the number of deaths, so we saw another slight rise in the population. Here is the list we have of births & deaths for 2002 & 2003 (this information comes to us courtesy of Ken Balcomb, the Center for Whale Research www.whaleresearch.com ):
L3 (Oriana) 53 year old female, missing in June 2003
L58 ( Sparky) 23 year old male, missing in June 2003
L102 unk., born to L47 (Marina) in Nov. 2002, her fourth calf, last seen early Dec. 2002
L60 (Rascal) female, 30, washed up on outer WA coast in spring of 2002
L103 unk, born to L55 (Nugget) her third calf, first seen early June of 2003
J39 unk., born to J11 (Blossom), her fourth calf, Spring, 2003
J38 unk., born to J22 (Oreo), her second calf, Spring, 2003
K35 unk., born to K16 (Opus), her first calf, Fall, 2002
L101 unk., born to L67 (Splash), her fourth calf, Fall, 2002
L102 unk., born to L47 (Marina), her fourth calf, Fall, 2002
Susan Berta and Howard Garrett (www.OrcaNetwork.org), August 11, 2003
Q. Do you think all of Luna's extended family would participate in the effort to dis-engage him from following boats? Marlene from Lake Country, BC, Canada
A. While not 100% certain, evidence suggests that the L Pod would keep Luna away from boats. Within days of Springer’s (A73) reunification with her pod last year, she started to move towards a boat and her Aunt (A24) stopped her. Springer has not been interested in boats since. Luna has been swimming near boats much longer than Springer. However scientists believe that Luna knows who he is in the context of his family and community and will listen to what he is told to do.
Gail Laurie, August 10, 2003
Q. What is the latest news about Springer? Bob from Toronto, Canada
A. From reports that I have received from our sources who monitor the Northern Residents, I hear that many are happy to say that Springer (A73) is a complete success story. She is now a regular little whale doing all of the things that little wild whales do. Springer is now an integral part of her pod, she is not singled out, and she is treated the same as each individual whale who exist within her pod. Each and every member of the pod are an important part of the endangered species we call "Orca".
Gail Laurie, August 8, 2003