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Study: Orca numbers increase due to 4 babies, but still dangerously low

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SEATTLE (AP) — The annual July tally of endangered orcas is complete, and researchers have counted 81 whales, including four babies born since last winter.

Ken Balcomb with the Center for Whale Research keeps the official census of Puget Sound killer whales for the federal government. He says they have photo confirmation of each whale and nobody is missing.

Balcomb says it’s good news that the four baby orcas have passed “the dangerous part,” though they’re not in the clear yet.

The population of 81 orcas is higher than last year’s count of 78 whales in July. But it’s still dangerously low. Listed as endangered in 2005, the whales are struggling because of pollution, lack of food and other reasons.

Balcomb sent his final census report the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration earlier this week.

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