World's oldest orca whale aged 103 spotted off Canada

Sinead Moore
World's oldest orca whale spotted along the Canadian coast
World's oldest orca whale spotted along the Canadian coast

The world's oldest known orca whale - aged 103 -has been spotted in Canadian waters.

J2, also known as 'Granny', was spotted leading her pod up from California into the southern Strait of Georgia, according to the Huffington Post Canada.

Simon Pidock of Ocean EcoVentures spotted the whale swimming with the rest of her family, known as J-Pod on Friday reports the Business Insider.

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Whale watchers were blown away by the sighting.

"It surprises people when they realize this whale was around before the Titanic sank. She's lived through fishing changes and live captures of whales. I would love to know what she thinks," said Pidcock.

Granny is believed to be 103 years old which is very impressive considering the average lifespan of a wild orca is between 60 and 80 years, according to Michael Harris, executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

Pidock told the Province that he was able to identify Granny by her saddle patch, a distinctive white patch each whale has behind its dorsal fin. "They're like our fingerprints," said Pidcock.

Granny is also recognisable because of a half-moon-shaped notch on the trailing side of her dorsal fin.

"I've seen her thousands and thousands of times," said Pidcock.

The senior cetacean is in great shape and was spotted in Northern California just over a week ago.

"The thing I found really, really interesting is that she's in the shape to travel, to make the trek she just did with J-Pod," said Harris. "That's 800 miles in not even eight days. It's amazing," said Harris.

"It's great news she's back, another year older, and thriving," added Harris.

Animal advocacy site The Dodo says that Granny's sighting means bad news for SeaWorld.

While wild orcas have long lifespans, the average lifespan of killer whales born at SeaWorld and other aquaria - excluding stillborn orcas - is only 4.5 years, says the Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Seaworld argues that "No one knows for sure how long killer whales live."

The Dodo contends SeaWorld's decision to keep killer whales in captivity saying, "Granny doesn't simply represent an impressive feat of nature; she embodies what's wrong with SeaWorld by being a living example of what's right in the wild. While it's true that most wild orcas don't live as long as Granny has, their lifespans are still dramatically longer than those of SeaWorld's whales (the NOAA estimates that wild female orcas, like Granny, live an average of 50 to 60 years). Their lives are also filled with much more swimming, exploration, variety and bonding with family -in other words, their lives are likely filled with much more joy."

Last year we reported on further criticism about Seaworld's decision to keep large killer whales in captivity.

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