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Orphaned orca calf swims out of B.C. lagoon after being trapped for weeks

Ehattesaht First Nation thankful for support after many rallied to help around remote Zeballos
kwiisaḥiʔis, the two-year-old orca calf trapped in a lagoon near Zeballos has swum out of the lagoon. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

kwiisaḥiʔis (kwee-sa-hay-is), the juvenile orca that has been trapped in shallow water near Zeballos, B.C. has swam out of the lagoon and re-entered deeper water.

At 2:30 a.m. during high tide under a clear, star-filled night sky, kwiisaḥiʔis swam past the sand bar where her mother died, under the bridge at the end of the lagoon and down Little Espinosa Inlet and into the larger Esperanza inlet all on her own.

Ehattesaht and Nuchatlaht members Rob John, Judea Smith, Ashley John and Victoria Wells alongside people from DFO’s Marine Mammal Response and Bay Cetology, spent the evening feeding her. kwiisaḥiʔis spent the night breaching and playing near the end of the lagoon and causeway bridge. When most of the team had left to get some sleep, a small group remained to stand as witnesses and watch kwiisaḥiʔis swim under the bridge and down the inlet.

In the morning, the team found her in Espinosa Inlet, and followed along from a distance as she moved to the larger Esperanza Inlet. The plan from there is to follow and encourage her to swim towards the open ocean, where it is hoped the Brave Little Hunter’s calls will be heard by her family.

“Today the community of Zeballos and people everywhere are waking up to some incredible news and what can only be described as pride for strength this little orca has shown,” says a release from ʔiiḥatis/ č iinaxịnt Chief and council.

Next steps are to increase patrols and protective measures to make sure that the whale has no contact with boats or people. The Nations and DFO have asked that boaters keep clear of the area.

“With this part of the challenged solved by kwiisaḥiʔis herself every opportunity needs to be afforded to have her back with her family with as little human interaction as possible,” the release says.

“Ehattesaht and Indigenous people across Canada are writing new stories in these modern times reinforcing the presence of a deep connection between the spirit world, the animal world and the people who have remained on the land and waters for all time,” it says. “Events like these have a deeper meaning and the timing of her departure will be thought about, talked about and felt for generations to come.”

Chief Simon John wrote in the release that the Nations are “deeply moved and eternally grateful” to all of the people who have been with them on this journey.

More to come…

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Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Black press in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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