Orca abandons body of her dead calf after 17-day journey

13 August, 2018, 20:11 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • It’s heartbreaking’ Killer whale continues carrying dead calf for ‘unprecedented’ length of mourning

An endangered orca's "tour of grief" is over after she spent almost three weeks towing her dead calf around the Pacific Ocean, researchers said Sunday.

The adult - Tahlequah, or J35 as she is known by researchers - and corpse were last seen definitively last week, 17 days after the baby's birth.

Tahlequah was spotted Saturday chasing a school of salmon with her pod mates in the Haro Strait without the dead calf for a half-mile, the Washington-state based Center for Whale Research said.

J35's calf died shortly after birth on July 24. Images of its mother holding the infant on her forehead were shared by hundreds...

"The ordeal of J35 carrying her dead calf for at least 17 days and 1,000 miles is now over, thank goodness", he said.

"Her tour of grief is now over and her behaviour is remarkably frisky".

Deborah Giles, a research scientist and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca, said watching the orca with her calf was emotionally draining.


Balcomb said he also saw J50 with her mother and brother on Saturday, along with NOAA researchers who were following her to collect prey remains and feces. "This kind of behavior is like a period of mourning and has been seen before". "And we know that it swam by her side.so there is a part of me that believes that the grief could be much deeper, because they had bonded".

Experts had been concerned about the mother's condition and anxious that the time and energy spent clinging onto the infant's body could take away from time spent foraging or feeding.

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

The centre says the carcass likely sank to the bottom of the Salish Sea, and researchers may not get a chance to perform a necropsy.

The SRKW's decline is linked to the reduction in population of its primary food source, Chinook salmon.

Howard Garrett, co-founder and board president of Orca Network, said he was relieved to hear the news.

It was a journey of love, driven by a mother's loss, stretching across a thousand miles of ocean as the world watched and wondered.

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