Orca spotted mourning calf that died after birth

Orca spotted mourning calf that died after birth
Southern resident killer whale still carrying calfs body a week after it died
SEATTLE — An endangered orca that spends time in Pacific Northwest waters is still carrying the corpse of her calf one week after it died.

Experts with the Whale Museum on San Juan Island have been monitoring the 20-year-old whale, known as J35, since her calf died shortly after birth on July 24. For days now, the whale has been balancing the dead calf on her forehead or pushing it to the surface of the water.

Jenny Atkinson, the museums executive director, said the orca was still carrying her dead calf Monday afternoon.

The calf was the first in three years to be born to the dwindling population of endangered southern resident killer whales. There are only 75.— The Associated Press

An endangered southern resident killer whale is still grieving her lost calf one week after it died.

Experts with the Whale Museum on San Juan Island have been watching the 20-year-old southern resident killer whale, known as J35, since Tuesday when her calf died shortly after it was born. The orca has been balancing the dead calf on her forehead or pushing it to the surface of the water

In turn, we are causing widespread food scarcity for these whales, thus resulting in an unprecedentedly high rate of miscarriages and making it extremely difficult for the whales to give their surviving young the proper nutrition. With the population growth of this species seriously stunted, only 75 Southern Resident orcas remain in the wild, putting these precious creatures at a high risk of disappearing from the planet for good if we don’t soon take action to protect them.

“She’s been carrying this calf throughout the inland waters now since Tuesday,” Jenny Atkinson, the museums executive director, said. “We believe it’s a sign of deep mourning or grieving. Her family seems to be assisting her through this process. They take turns carrying it.”

In light of the orca’s high capacity for emotion, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when a mother orca recently lost her just-born calf near Vancouver Island, she has reportedly been carrying the baby for the past seven days. This heartbreaking act of grief was witnessed by researchers from the Center for Whale Research, who were tracking the mother killer whale and her pod at the time of the calf’s death.

Atkinson said the corpse has been carried north of Vancouver and south near Whidbey Island. The last report put the pod between the Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands.

Endangered orca still carrying corpse of her calf one week after it died

“I think everyone is pretty dumbfounded by it and we don’t know how long it will go on,” Atkinson said.

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On Sunday, J35 was seen carrying the calf in her mouth, which could lead to the animal being broken down.

Orca carries dead calf for a week during deep grieving

“But she seems to be really tender with it as they’re moving through with water,” Atkinson said.

Experts at the Whale Museum on San Juan Island have been monitoring the 20-year-old whale, known as J35, since her calf died shortly after birth last Tuesday.

Video: Mourning Orca Mother Carries Dead Calf For Week During Deep Grieving

Grieving Mother Orca Carries Dead Calf For More Than A Week, Over Hundreds Of Miles

However, Atkinson said they are concerned for J35’s health because by the end of the day, her breathing is more laboured and she swims in more of a deep arch like a humpback whale.

Taylor Shedd, program coordinator with Soundwatch Boater Education Program, has been on the water and watching J35 in the daylight hours to monitor the situation.

“There is the eventual hope that she will surrender the calf and the family group will go on and there will be an opportunity to retrieve the calf once she fully lets go of it.”

Mother orca grieves loss of newborn, carries body for almost a week

There are only 75 southern resident killer whales left. The calf was the first in three years to be born to the population.