More than 30 years of research on killer whale has taught us about these magnificent animals. But there is still much more to learn. This is where YOU can help. Continuing research will lead to better understanding of the whales, their place in the ocean ecosystem and the conservation measures necessary to protect them.
September 19, 1999
Luna (L98) is born to Splash (L67), a member of L pod of the southern resident killer whale population. His birth takes place near San Juan Island and is witnessed by Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research, who notes Luna was taken from his mother by members of another southern resident pod within hours of his birth, something never been seen before. Luna returns to his mother after several days.
Luna and Splash are seen frequently in their usual summer range in northern Washington State and southern British Columbia, and apart from the fact that Luna sometimes swims further away from his mother than is typical of very young calves, everything seems normal. L pod leaves the area in late September and is not seen again until the following year.
When L pod returns, Splash is present but Luna and four other members of his pod are missing and presumed dead—much greater mortality than in previous winters.
A boater spots a lone killer whale in Nootka Sound and reports the information to the BC Cetacean Sightings Network at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Graeme Ellis, an experienced killer whale researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, flies over Nootka Sound and spots a single killer whale calf. Graeme and colleagues follow up by visiting the area by boat regularly over the next few months. They identify the calf as Luna and determine that he is feeding on Pacific sardines and is in good physical condition.
Many residents in Gold River (on Muchalat Inlet, Nootka Sound) are now aware of Luna. The news spreads slowly, perhaps because the media are preoccupied with Springer.
A monitoring program is established and notes that Luna’s interacts with boaters are become more frequent and active. Luna also begins visiting the Gold River dock and interacting with people there.
An expert panel is set up to make recommendations about Luna. The panel predicts that interactions between Luna and people will increase and become more and more problematic the longer he remains isolated from his pod. It also noted that reunification is unlikely without some type of human assistance or intervention, since L-pod is not known to enter Nootka Sound.
Luna damages the rudders and outboard engines of several boats and begins interacting with taxiing floatplanes as well. Some local residents threaten to shoot him.
The Canadian government reverses an earlier decision and announces that it will relocate Luna to his pod’s summering area off southern Vancouver Island the following year. The Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nations are opposed to intervention. They believe that Luna is the reincarnation Chief Ambrose Maquinna, who died shortly before Luna appeared in Nootka Sound. Some members of the scientific panel are concerned that the length of Luna’s social isolation has greatly reduced the chance of successful reintegration with his pod.
The Canadian government asks the Vancouver Aquarium to take the lead in capturing, assessing, and moving Luna to his pod.
After weeks of preparation, an attempt to capture Luna is thwarted when Mowachaht-Muchalaht paddlers lure Luna away from the capture site. The Canadian government cancels the capture plan.
The Mowachaht-Muchalaht launch a program to steward Luna.
Efforts to keep Luna and boaters apart are partially successful, but intermittent interactions occur and anonymous threats to shoot Luna continue to be made.
March 10, 2006
Luna is retrieving sticks thrown to him by the crew of a large tugboat when he is struck by its propeller and instantly killed.
Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard
Photo: Lloyd Murray
Photo: Parfait and Chisholm
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