Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Orca seen grieving, carrying dead calf is now feeding, frolicking with pod

Grieving Orca Whale Releases Dead Calf After More Than Two Weeks Orca whale mother's 'tour of grief' over after nearly 3 weeks
Celia Hoffman | 13 August, 2018, 08:39

After carrying her deceased baby for at least 17 days and 1,000 miles, an orca mother has shown signs of returning to normal.

"J35 frolicked past my window today with other J pod whales, and she looks vigorous and healthy", he told Seattle-based station King 5 in an email.

At the same time, the mother's obsession had become gravely concerning to researchers.

According to the Centre for Whale Research, observers and researchers believe that J35's "tour of grief" is now over, after she was spotted chasing a school of salmon with the rest of her pod on Saturday, August 11th.

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.

In circumstances like this, orcas are known to nudge along perished newborns for up to a week, preventing them from sinking by repeatedly propping them up on their foreheads in a desperate bid to keep them with the pod.

The whales are being deafened by sonar and boat noise in the sea, as well as a lack of Chinook salmon, their main source of food. That's why the fact that Tahlequah recently gave birth was so exciting, if only for a brief moment.

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The mother whale was first spotted carrying her dead calf on 24 July, off the shore of Vancouver Island.

The CWR says 100% of pregnancies for Southern Resident killer whales over the past 3 years have failed to produce viable offspring. Only 75 killer whales in the endangered group, known as southern resident orcas, remain.

Jenny Atkinson, executive director of The Whale Museum, told Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson that Tahlequah's grieving period was unusually long.

The CWR says mother whales have been known to transport their dead calves for up to a week at a time, but this case was unprecedented. But Tahlequah's baby was not stillborn.

"J35, the mom, seems to be doing well, very energetic and travelling with her family members", he said in an e-mail. "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".

Just like humans, Corwin said, grief has to "take its course".

"The population (of orcas) is both Canadian and American in terms of moving back and forth, so it's been a real coordination between governments, NGOs, and also the research community", he said. Her podmates depend on it.

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