By Josie  July 27th, 2023

Orca Mother Carries Dead Calf For 17 Days Across 1,000 Miles

A devasted orca mother carries her dead calf with her for almost three weeks – showing how maternal bonds exist across species.

The Mother

The mother is an orca named Tahlequah, or J35, from the Southern Resident Killer Whale population

The Tragic Death

The mother gave birth to a calf that tragically died after just half an hour, she then embarked on what scientists refer to as a “tour of grief.”.

Tahlequah would balance the calf on her forehead, occasionally diving to retrieve it whenever it slipped off.

The Journey

Her mourning journey started near Victoria, British Columbia. 1000 miles later, she let go of her calf somewhere in the Salish Sea.

This intensity and duration of Tahlequah’s mourning also underscore orcas’ capacity for long-term memory and emotional depth.

Emotional Intelligence In Orcas

Orca Mothers

In orca societies, mother-offspring bonds are exceptionally strong and long-lasting, often persisting throughout the animals’ lives.

Risking Extinction

The mother's pod is critically endangered, 74 individuals remain according to the last count in July 2023.

Their primary food source of these, the Chinook salmon, is in decline - this is the major reason for their endangerment.

In September 2020, researchers spotted Tahlequah, with a new calf, eliciting worldwide joy and relief.

A Happy Ending

This birth was a beacon of hope for the Southern Resident Killer Whale population who might be facing extinction.

Yellow Wavy Line
Yellow Wavy Line

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