A wild juvenile orca has died from malnutrition, bringing the Southern Resident pod down to 76 whales, two lower than the number that landed them on the Endangered Species list in 2001.
The news prompted a press release from SeaWorld urging people to visit their theme parks so they can continue to contribute $10 million each year for animal rescue and conservation.
“We cannot ignore these statistics,” the SeaWorld release said. “This population isn’t going to miraculously recover. We must continue to research, continue to donate, and continue to learn so that we can try to give these killer whales a future.”
Orca Encounters encourages conservation by giving statistics, information, and risks orcas face in the wild. The show, which was introduced last spring at SeaWorld San Diego, is scheduled to open at SeaWorld Orlando in 2019.
SeaWorld has supported the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program to fund research for killer whales in the wild, particularly the Southern Resident Killer Whales.
The research focuses on increasing prey availability, improving habitat quality, and strengthening management through research.
“If this trajectory continues and we lose two or three more, from deaths or unsuccessful births, we will be in a real spiral,” said Lance Barrett-Lennard, senior marine mammal researcher at the Vancouver Aquarium.
A major fear of whale researchers is the scarcity of food for the Southern whales. The population feeds almost exclusively on Chinook salmon, a species that has been dwindling this year.