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Grieving mother orca finally drops calf after carrying corpse for 17 days

Grieving mother orca finally drops calf after carrying corpse for 17 days

An apparently grieving female orca whale who swam with the body of her dead calf for more than two weeks has stopped carrying the carcass, environmental officials said. Since then, J35 had carried the baby on her head for 17 days.

The Center for Whale Research said Tahlequah "vigorously chased a school of salmon with her pod-mates" when researchers spotted her on Saturday (local time).

J35's calf was born near Victoria on July 24, but died moments later.

For days the mother killer whale, also known as an orca, was seen repeatedly diving to retrieve the calf's carcass as it sank en route to San Juan Island.

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Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb said it's "unprecedented" for an orca to have gone for so long.

"The ordeal of her carrying a dead calf for at least seventeen days and 1,000 miles is now over, thank goodness".

"Her tour of grief is now over and her behavior is remarkably frisky". "This is an animal that is grieving for its dead baby, and she doesn't want to let it go.

Telephoto digital images taken from shore show that this mother whale appears to be in good physical condition", says the Centre for Whale Research.

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"J35 frolicked past my window today with other J pod whales, and she looks vigorous and healthy", Balcomb wrote in an email. According to NPR's Dwyer, the population of Southern Resident killer whales has decreased by about a quarter in the past 20 years, largely because their food source, the Chinook salmon, has also seen a dramatic population decline.

Most killer whales eat a wider diet, but this particular group of about 75 resident orcas eats just salmon, which have been overfished in the area for commercial consumption.

"This is something new; we never really experienced anything like this".

But she's finally been able to move on from her grief, as we learned from an update from the Center for Whale Research over the weekend. "She carried this for 17 months before it was born", Atkinson said.

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Haulena said when cetaceans give birth, the mothers will typically "slipstream" behind the calf and push it toward the surface, ensuring it will get air.