Giles was clear, though, that she is feeling “cautious optimism.” Unfortunately, the reality may be that these pregnancies wind up being another bunch of painful losses for the population. Giles said many of the whales are “puny,” which is not a great indicator for their overall health.
“It’s easy to celebrate a pregnancy, but the fact is that it’s quite possible this won’t result in a healthy live birth,” she said.
The health of whales is tied to their growth. That’s why scientists at SEA and SR3 are using drones to photograph and study the orcas, a method of observation that’s also less obtrusive than others. Through this assessment, they’ve seen enough changes in the body size of some of the females of the pod to recognize that they’re pregnant. What the whales need now is plenty of food and space. Some advocates have been calling on the state and federal governments to restore salmon to the lower Snake River in the Pacific Northwest to help give these orcas the nutrients they need.