It has been a big week in Orca news lately, punctuated with a visit by the ETP Orcas to Southern California. The passing of Tilikum at Sea World Orlando was bound to provoke the most discussion. But I was heartened to see that an outpouring of affection for J2 Granny, gone after over 100 years on this planet, made headlines as well.
The thing about Granny? According to unmanned aerial surveys from NOAA (https://swfsc.noaa.gov/news.aspx?ParentMenuId=147&id=22348), Granny was getting skinny. We know that Orcas in menopause remain in leadership roles and that their wisdom and experience guides the pod through lean times. J2 Granny had been observed prior to her disappearance feeding and nurturing one of the younger members of her pod. This despite her once thick frame losing weight at an unhealthy pace.
I think of my grandparents a lot. I am lucky to still have one of my grandfathers and I miss my other grandparents terribly. I know they have all provided for me at some point, and that the life I lead today is thanks to them in no small part. To read these stories of Granny, a wild animal in a family facing hardship, actually sacrifice herself for her grandchildren is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming. These animals may yet be able to make a comeback, but the decimation of the Chinook Salmon as a result of human activity is not something that can be overcome through wisdom alone.
Human action to make amends for ecologically damaging mistakes we have made will be necessary as well.
Today with the ETP Orcas there was a very young calf, I am reminded of the other Orca calves I have seen in the past two months. It is a major task to become the apex predator of the Ocean, and a strong family will be required for these little ones to inherit that mantle. It adds a completely new dimension to these animals I feel more people should consider.