Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Grieving orca mother spotted without her dead calf after nearly three weeks

Grieving orca mother spotted without her dead calf after nearly three weeks Grieving orca mother spotted without her dead calf after nearly three weeks
Melissa Porter | 13 August, 2018, 13:09

A killer whale has stopped carrying her dead newborn calf after at least 17 days, during which she covered 1600km, scientists say.

The Center for Whale Research said Tahlequah "vigorously chased a school of salmon with her pod-mates" when researchers spotted her on Saturday.

The behaviour displayed by J35 has many researchers stumped.

J35's grief became an global story when photos of her carrying the dead calf hit the internet. "These kinds of things are very hard to talk about or prove". But the bonds between mothers and calves are extremely strong. They hoped to capture the calf once Tahlequah finally let go, and discover why it had died - as almost all the babies in this pod seemed to.

He said while it may appear J35 is displaying human-like emotion, it's too hard to distinguish between actual animal emotions and what humans project onto them.

"It's not surprising they're capable of deep feelings, and that's what (Tahlequah) is showing", Marino said.

She finally abandoned the carcass as it decomposed, the AP reports.

It's believed her calf's body sunk to the bottom of the strait, meaning researchers may not get a chance to examine it for an autopsy. She was also seen frolicking with her pod. "I can imagine this [mourning period] could take a very, very long time".

Another orca in the pod, a 3½-year-old known as J50, is emaciated and in poor condition.

Cottrell said the cross-border collaboration with their American counterparts has been very successful.

The orca gave birth on July 25 in what should have been a happy milestone for her long-suffering clan.

The Southern Resident killer whale is listed as an endangered species with roughly only a third of the calves born in the last 20 years surviving, according to the BBC.

She carried her deceased baby off the coast of Vancouver Island from July 24th until at least August 9th, when she may have been spotted by whale watchers who told CWR researchers that J35 was not pushing her calf's corpse.

Haulena said the public interest in J35's journey was gratifying for the veterinarian.

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.