Granny (J-2), the ‘Cetacean Senior’ Orca, Just Might Be 100 Years Old; Come Celebrate!

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Granny (J-2), the matriarch of J-pod and oldest of all the Southern Resident orcas, is not giving away her age.
She stays fit, swimming a hundred miles or so a day, tries to keep her shape plump on a diet of salmon, and enjoys a large social network of relatives and other clan members – so to the untrained eye she looks like any other adult female orca. But researchers have a good idea how old she is anyway – around 100 years old – based on her estimated age when first identified in the mid 1970s.

Picnic at the whale park on San Juan Island

She might be a bit younger (or older, for that matter), but given the fragility of this endangered population of orcas and the fact that Granny’s son, the venerable J-1 died this year at age 59, it seems like an important year to pause and think about how much has changed in the last one hundred years, and to consider what the next century will bring.
No one knows how long orcas can live, but other cetacean species are known to live for well over one hundred years.  Postmortem tests that have shown that a narwhal female was 115 years old , and similar tests have shown that bowhead whales can live for centuries:  “… the lens analyses from five large [bowhead] males suggested that at the time that Iñupiat hunters harpooned them, one was 90, four were between 135 and 180, and one was more than 200 years old.” (Cetacean Seniors, Whales that give new meaning to longevity).
The changes that Granny might have witnessed in the last century are huge, and follow-up posts will address those – but for now, it is just good to know that people have come so very far in changing their attitudes towards whales and dolphins, and to note that for all the mistreatment they have received from humans they have never harmed us in return.
It is positive and reassuring to consider that as our urban areas grew over the last century, so did our awareness of the need to preserve the environment, and to protect the creatures of the world from our thoughtless development.

Visit The Center for Whale Research website for details on the celebration

Present day Seattle ferry dock.

Ferry dock, downtown Seattle circa 1914

Pike Place Market now

Pike Place Market circa 1916

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