‘Grieving’ killer whale carries around deceased calf’s body for 17 days

Tahlequah is no longer carrying her dead calf

Tahlequah is no longer carrying her dead calf

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.

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.

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 act itself was not unprecedented, but researchers said it was rare to see a mother carry her dead for so long.

Whale experts say they have seen orcas mourn their offspring before for up to a week, but J35 clung to her calf for an unusually long period of time.

Greenpeace USA Field Organizing Manager Ben Smith said in a statement: "Tahlequah united millions of people worldwide in heartbreak and love as she carried her dead calf for 1,000 miles".

"Her tour of grief is now over and her behaviour is remarkably frisky", said the centre, based in Friday Harbor, Wash.

Researchers had anxious J35, who was last spotted with her dead calf Wednesday, was not eating properly and was spending too much energy pushing the corpse.

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Image: The calf died shortly after it was born.

Dr. Martin Haulena, the chief veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium, said a one- or two-day "mourning period" is common in many cetacean species such as whales and dolphins, but the 17-day-long journey was distinctly unusual.

Tahlequah is one of two orcas in the pod that scientists have been monitoring.

The carcass likely sunk to the bottom of the waters of the Salish Sea, according to the center.

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

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.

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

About 75 per cent of newborns have not survived for long after birth in the past 20 years and as a result the southern resident killer whale population has been classified as endangered.

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