An orca whale who become world-famous for carrying her dead calf for 17 days has become a mother again.
Endangered whale J35, known as Tahlequah, became headline famous after carrying her deceased calf with her for 17 days after it died in the summer of 2018. The calf only survived for about a half an hour after birth, and Tahlequah traveled one thousand miles over that time—a "Tour of Grief"—keeping the calf afloat the entire time. Watching this raw and organic display of a mother’s grief touched the hearts of people worldwide.
It was happy news in July when the orca was discovered to be pregnant, and an announcement was made a few days ago sharing that a healthy calf was born.
She was seen with her calf in the waters between Washington State and Vancouver Island, in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is not known exactly when the calf was born, however, due to the dorsal fin being upright, researchers monitoring the orca pod believe the baby was likely born on Friday, September 4. The mother and baby were swimming at a distance for the rest of the pod and was said to be “evasive” as she crossed into Canadian waters.
We are pleased to report a NEW calf in J pod! J35's new calf appeared healthy and precocious, swimming vigorously alongside its mother in its second day of free-swimming life.https://t.co/6bSnvzRAju pic.twitter.com/ctxRQqPnn8— Whale Research (@CWROrcas) September 6, 2020
Researchers following Tahlequah had concerns after she became pregnant, as about 70 percent of orca pregnancies end in miscarriage and there's a 40 percent mortality rate for young orca calves. Deteriorating environmental factors pose a great risk to the species survival; pollution in the water, lack of food, shipping traffic, and warming waters all contribute to the struggle the orca faces.
The Southern Resident killer whales reside along the coast of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. They are the largest species of dolphin, known as the orca or killer whale, and live in pods, where they help each other with hunting and taking care of their young. They have been endangered since 2005—currently, there are only 73 of the animals, the lowest population since 1976. The Center for Whale Research is the leading organization dedicated to studying and assessing the health of the whales and their habitat.
It is wonderful news that Tahlequah and her baby are happy and healthy, and we look forward to seeing the calf grow up!