Granny, the oldest known orca in the world has died, the Center for Whale Research announced on Saturday. Although scientists do not know how old she was exactly, they estimate her to be between 75 and 105 years old.
Also known as J2, the whale was last spotted in early October. Scientists say that she lived in the Pacific, off the shores of Washington for probably a century. “I last saw her on October 12, 2016 as she swam north in Haro Strait far ahead of the others. Perhaps other dedicated whale-watchers have seen her since then, but by year’s end she is officially missing from the SRKW population, and with regret we now consider her deceased,” Kenneth C. Balcomb, the executive director of White Research, stated on the website.
Granny was the matriarch of her pod or J pod. She can easily be spotted with a crescent-shaped mark on her dorsal fin. She was also featured on a BBC documentary, wherein biologists followed her and her clan of orcas to understand their evolution.
“She lived through the live captures,” Darren Croft, from the University of Exeter, UK told BBC News, “and in recent years her world has changed dramatically with dwindling salmon stocks and increases in shipping threatening the survival of this incredible population.” Croft adds that although Granny is gone, the data gathered about her life can benefit other orcas.
Scientists say that killer whales can live as long as 100 years. However, in captivity, they are expected to only live up to 19 to 30 years for males while females can live from 30 to 50 years. As of December 31, 2016, researchers have found out that there are only 78 Southern Resident Killer Whales left. Experts worry that the killer whale population’s future is still uncertain since the salmon population, which the whales rely on, is also dwindling.