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Grieving Mom Orca Still Carries Her Dead Calf For Half A Month Now

Aug 10, 2018 02:10 AM EDT
After more than two weeks, the mother orca is still carrying her dead calf wherever she goes. Scientists are worried if Tahlequah is still getting the nutrition she needs.
(Photo : Pixabay)

A mourning mother killer whale, or commonly known as orca, has captured the hearts of everyone when she carried her dead calf in late July. Now, she still holds her baby dearly, going on for more than two weeks now.

Experts and the public are particularly eyeing and following the journey and story of a mommy orca, which seemed to be grieving the loss of her baby. The mother, named Tahlequah or J35, was first spotted on July 24, when the newborn died after just an hour. Since then she swam while she carried her dead calf, which means she had been doing so for more than half a month now.

Growing Concern

The orca was last seen off the coast of Washington on Wednesday. For this, many people expressed concern over the mom orca, citing health problems that may arise. Because of how long she had been doing this, the pressing concerns if she's still eating or if she's been given food by other members of the pod are starting to heavily louden. Others just wondered if the act was indeed normal for their kind.

University of Washington scientist Deborah Giles said she was heartbroken for what is happening with the mom and child. Moreover, she expressed her worry over the nutrition of the orca.

"Even if her family is foraging for and sharing fish with her, J35 cannot be getting the ... nutrition she needs to regain any body-mass loss that would have naturally occurred during the gestation of her fetus and also additional loss of nutrition during these weeks of mourning," she said.

However, as much as people want to intervene on the scene, scientists suggest leaving the mom orca and her dead calf alone. As for the growing concern on the actions of the animal, biologist Jeff Corwin believes that Tahlequah "probably is medically or physically healthy to survive."

Biologist Dawn Noren echoed this sentiment and explained that adult female orca with Tahlequah's size can go without eating for a month and still be fine. The danger here is that carrying and pushing the dead calf to the waters adds weight, and therefore, it entails more effort for Tahlequah, and worse, it adds to the grief.

Just like humans, they're still mourning, which ultimately show how emotional and intelligent killer whales are. However, the mom orca's mourning could possibly take longer time, but still, the time frame is unprecedented.

Center for Whale Research's Ken Balcomb estimates the orca swam while carrying the calf for about a thousand miles since the baby died. Apart from the nutrition concern for Tahlequah, the carcass is starting to fall apart, but the mom is keen on keeping with her the dead calf.

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