Local kids gathered with their parents to participate in the Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society’s Build-a-Whale event at West Park Mall on May 23 and 24.
Cierra Hart, a summer student with the Tofino-based non-profit, has spent much of the last month travelling around Northern B.C.
During the workshop, which was also run as a field trip for several local elementary schools, kids used an orca-sized framework to connect the bones of a real orca’s skeleton, while at the same time learning about the orca’s anatomy and conservation efforts.
“It’s an animal that we see a lot in Tofino, but we’ve been bringing [north] more often … and just being able to see kids make the connection between their river-ways and our ocean-ways, to be able to spark the interest in them, and let them know that they make the difference up here as well,” says Hart, whose presentation also discusses the ways in which local salmon are connected to the killer whales.
The children started by placing vertebrae along the spine of the framework (with each vertebrae correlating to a number on the frame) and then attached the whale’s ribs.
They also learned about the killer whale’s pectoral fins and scapula — the shoulders — and attached them as well. After the shoulders, the group moved on to the orca’s jaw, where they learned more about the orca whose bones they were working with.
The orca was reported dead in the water 17 miles offshore from Tofino on August 29, 1997. Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society spent 11 hours towing the whale back to Tofino, where vets and biologists from Vancouver Island University and the Strawberry Isle Marine Research Institute performed a necropsy, finding that the whale was old and far from it’s home in more southern waters. A cavity in the whale’s jaw bone may also have been a factor in her death.
Known as 0120, the killer whale they found now tours Canada, teaching people about the orcas and conservation.