Published: Mon, August 13, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

After 17 days, killer whale lets dead newborn calf go

After 17 days, killer whale lets dead newborn calf go

An endangered killer whale that drew global attention as she carried her dead calf on her head for more than two weeks off Canada's west coast is finally back to feeding and frolicking with her pod, researchers say.

But the center said J35 was seen Saturday afternoon just off its headquarters and "vigorously chased" salmon with her pod.

Tahlequah captured nationwide attention after being spotted carrying her dead calf, which died about a half hour after being born on July 24, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

The centre says J35 appears to be in good health based on telephoto images, in spite of concerns she may not have been able to forage for food while carrying around the carcass.

"Her tour of grief is now over and her behavior is remarkably frisky", Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb said.

In this Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, swim off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C. J50 is the sick whale that a team of experts are hoping to save by giving her antibiotics or feeding her live salmon at sea. "And on Thursday she was still seen pushing her baby to the water's surface".

While we can be relieved that J35 has finally relinquished her dead calf and is moving on with more normal orca behaviour, the sad reality is that some 75 percent of newborns in the SRKW population in the past two decades have failed to thrive - and Tahlequah's calf, had she survived, would have been the first living offspring in three years. "What exactly she's feeling we'll never know".

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

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.

The Centre for Whale Research said the carcass had "probably sunk to the bottom of these inland marine waters of the Salish Sea" and it would be hard for researchers to locate it for necropsy. He said the mother traveled more than 1,000 miles with the corpse.

Both Canada and the U.S. list the Southern Resident killer whale as endangered.

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