Since several people have been wondering about the status of J33 Keet, I thought I would post something here on my blog.
The Center for Whale Research is the official population census organization for the Southern Resident Killer Whales. They publish official population counts twice a year - once in the middle of the summer and once at the end of the calendar year, based on the last sighting of each pod. It is believed that J33 Keet, a male born in 1996 to J16 Slick, is missing, but he has not officially been listed as missing and probably won't be until the end of the year. Because I defer to the Center for Whale Research for official census information, Keet was not included in my Day of the Dead post earlier this month.
|J33 ~ Keet in August 2009|
If Keet has passed away, it is indeed a tragic loss. Along with L73 Flash and L74 Saanich that would make him the third young male orca that has passed away this year, which is certainly a cause for concern. I find myself especially shocked and saddened when a J-Pod whale passes away. Not only do I in most cases know them better as a family group because they spend more time in inland waters, but in the time I've known them they've always seemed like the most resilient pod. I've been closely following this population of whales since the year 2000, and in that time the only two J-Pod whales have passed away: newborn calf J43 in 2007 and adult female J11 Blossom in 2008. This means every other J-Pod calf born in the last decade (ten of them) has survived, a remarkable ratio, and only a single adult whale has died.
Let's hope Keet is not in fact missing. If he is, let's hope this year is just an anomaly with the loss of three adult and sub-adult males, and not symptomatic of a greater problem as the loss of all the males in the late 1990s was. Regardless of the reason, Keet will be missed.