Published: Mon, August 13, 2018
Medical | By

Orca back to feeding, frolicking after carrying dead calf

Orca back to feeding, frolicking after carrying dead calf

The Centre for Whale Research (CWR) in Washington state said it watched the killer whale, known as J35, chase a school of salmon in Haro Strait west of San Juan Island on Saturday afternoon (local time).

The calf died soon after birth in July, and the orca mom had carried the body for almost three weeks while traveling hundreds of miles.

The grieving mother had been pushing her dead orca calf around the water for 17 days after giving birth near Victoria, British Columbia in Canada.

Killer whales had previously been known to transport their dead calves for as long as a week, according to the CWR, which monitors the Southern Resident killer whale community.

"I am sobbing. I can't believe she is still carrying her calf around", Giles told the Seattle Times.

While scientists had previously held fears for Tahlequah's health due to not eating, Mr Balcomb confirmed she seemed physically stable.


The mother is now surrounded by members of her clan, known as J pod, who stay to support her through the grieving process.

Scientists say grieving is common among mammals such as whales, dolphins, elephants and deer. The mother was not ready to let go, and carried the calf along with her as she swam.

Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb says he is immensely relieved to see J35 returning to typical behavior.

"It is a grief, a genuine mourning", he said.

Deborah Giles, a research scientist and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca, said watching the orca with her calf was emotionally draining. There hasn't been a successful birth among the southern resident killer whales in three years.

Exacerbating the problem is that orcas do not have babies often or in large numbers, and when they do, it is a long process.

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