Scientists believe “Granny,” the world’s oldest known orca, has passed away after living in the Pacific, off the shores of Washington, for what may have been as long as a century.
The Center for Whale Research, which has monitored Granny’s pod in the Puget Sound region for the past four decades, announced the sad news on its website Saturday.
Granny, also known as J2, was thought to be between 75 and 105 years old. She was last spotted in early October, the group said.
“By year’s end she is officially missing from the [Southern Resident Killer Whale] population, and with regret we now consider her deceased,” wrote Ken Balcomb, executive director of White Research.
Granny was the matriarch of her pod. She was recognizable by a nick on her dorsal fin in the shape of a crescent moon.
“We have now seen J2 thousands of times in the past 40 years and in recent years, she had been in the lead of J pod virtually any time that she had been seen by anyone,” Balcomb wrote. “And she kept on going, like the Energizer bunny.”
Orcas, also known as killer whales, are listed as endangered in both Canada and the U.S.
In 2006, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on the people who hunted orcas in Puget Sound in the 1960s for entertainment. That period saw the capture of SeaWorld’s original Shamu, as well as hunters targeting Granny’s own pod.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, killer whales can live as long as 100 years. SeaWorld, which has faced controversy over its captivity of the animals, narrows that age bracket down on its website to 30 to 50 years for females and 19 to 30 years for males, at least in the Pacific Northwest.
Some of the top threats against the southern resident killer whales, the orca population to which Granny belonged, include pollution, disturbance from water vehicles and limited access to food, according to the Center for Whale Research.