Cappuccino, the oldest living male in the southern orca pod, is believed to be dead by the age of 35, officials said.
Whale watchers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a body of water between Washington and Canada, saw the orca look thin and weak last week, the Orca Rescues Foundation said. His dorsal fin had collapsed completely and he couldn’t keep up with the rest of the capsule.
“He was many miles behind the rest of his pod,” the institute said on Facebook. “Based on the photos we’ve seen, we don’t think it’s a condition he can recover from.”
That Pacific Whale Watch Association was also “deeply concerned and sad” about Cappuccino’s condition, the group said on Friday.
Cappuccino may have been starving or suffering from chronic illness, Paul Cottrell of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans Marine Mammal Unit told Seattle Pi.
“Although clearly malnourished, we cannot say with certainty what contributed to his severe physical decline – illness, lack of food, or most likely some combination of factors,” said the Orca Behavior Institute. “Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans tried to be on hand to further assess his status, but as far as we know it was unsuccessful on Thursday to relocate him.”
The average lifespan of a male killer whale is around 30 years, the Orca Behavior Institute said. Cappuccino lived to be 35, which is a remarkable life for an orca, experts said.
“Since it was born in 1986, this beloved whale has been a source of joy and inspiration to anyone lucky enough to see it in the Salish Sea and beyond,” the Pacific Whale Watch Association said on Twitter.
His death could be a “devastating blow” to the southern killer whale population, said the Orca Rescues Foundation. There are only 74 left in the capsule.