When Luna (L98) first made his appearance in Nootka Sound during the summer of 2001, scientists felt that he would eventually reunite with his family in the L Pod, part of the Southern Resident orcas. At this time, Luna was thriving on his own and was wary of boats.
At first, the Scientific Panel created by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), who will ultimately decide Luna's fate, witnessed Luna in good health. He was eating and growing, and by all physical accounts he looked healthy. At the time (2002) Luna was still in Nootka Sound where there was a possibility that he would hear his pod if they swam near. It was felt that Nootka Sound was in a much better place than in the San Juan area where the rest of Luna's pod resides in the summer. From a human perspective, Nootka Sound has less environmental issues for the little whale to contend with because Luna would be amongst less boat traffic than the L Pod. To a lesser degree, Luna would be away from certain environmental hazards and toxins found in the San Juan area. At Nootka Sound, Luna had all of the fish he could want to eat.
As the summer passed, Luna's behavior started to change. This behavior has accelerated in 2003 and reappeared in the summers of 2004 and 2005. Luna has become fond of boats, likely due to shear loneliness for his own kind and the coaxing of humans who believed they were helping. In July of 2003, Luna followed a boat into the Muchalat Inlet and, ultimately, Gold River. This area is approximately 15-20 nautical miles from the open ocean and out of the migratory designations for Luna's pod (see article on L POD Acoustics). However, during the winter and spring months, when there is a possibility that Southern Residents may travel near Nootka Sound, Luna prefers to swim close to the acoustic range of the open ocean.
The case to support Luna's reunification with his pod is complete:
- Luna is a healthy male and for reproductive reasons is necessary to the future of Southern Residents, whose numbers have fallen drastically in the last few years.
- Most experts feel that if he is left in his current situation serious harm will come to him, possibly from boat propellers or humans.
- Luna has become a public safety risk as many people and boats try to engage him.
- Researchers faced the same issues a few years ago when deciding the fate of Springer (A73) - she has been successful reunited with her pod.
- Scientific evidence now suggests that there is virtually no way that Luna's pod will reject him. Each orca is born into and grows up as a member of a cultural community, bonded for life. This membership and identity are not lost, regardless of time spent away from the community.
In conclusion, Luna knows who he is in the context of his family and community. There is no reason to assume he has forgotten his family or the vocalizations they use to communicate, and there is no reason to believe he is somehow an outcast or is undesirable to his family. He remains a member of the L2 matriline. He's simply out of reach, lost, and when that problem is resolved by bringing him close to his family, he'll know them immediately and he'll know what to do. He'll rejoin them. A lost human child old enough to learn his family's language would do the same.