Orca mom still mourning death of her calf five days later

For the fifth day in a row, an orca mom continues to mourn the death of her calf by carrying it around and gently keeping the little one afloat. J35, also referred to as Tahlequah, has been seen swimming in the Canadian waters deeply grieving with her pod not far behind.

In a Facebook post from the Whale Museum, the daily vigils have been nothing short of heartbreaking.

“Tahlequah is still carrying her calf today. We continue to ask everyone to give Tahlequah and her family extra space and respect as they grieve. We thank those of you who are helping protect this family by modeling respectful behavior and spreading the word. We thank all of our partners in enforcement, monitoring and education. Our heartfelt thanks continues to go out to our Soundwatch team for standing by her and providing extra protection & education.”

In a media release by the Center for Whale Research, whales along the British Columbia coastline are struggling to reproduce. The newborn whale was reported alive and swimming with its mother, J35 and other members of the J pod in mid morning on Tuesday. By the time the crew arrived to document the calf’s birth for long-term census for the United States and Canada, the calf had died.

“The baby’s carcass was sinking and being repeatedly retrieved by the mother who was supporting it on her forehead and pushing it in choppy seas toward San Juan Island, USA. The mother continued supporting and pushing the dead baby whale throughout the day until at least sunset. A resident of San Juan Island near Eagle Cove reported: ‘At sunset, a group of 5-6 females gathered at the mouth of the cove in a close, tight-knit circle, staying at the surface in a harmonious circular motion for nearly 2 hours. As the light dimmed, I was able to watch them continue what seemed to be a ritual or ceremony. They stayed directly centered in the moonbeam, even as it moved. The lighting was too dim to see if the baby was still being kept afloat. It was both sad and special to witness this behavior. My heart goes out to J35 and her beautiful baby; bless its soul.”

Tragically, the whale by many observers perceived to be one of the most beautiful sights in the ocean, sends a stark reminder of what is happening. Eyes are now on another whale – J50, a four-year-old female whale appearing to be starving. At the time J50 was born, there had been 10 more baby orcas and optimism of robust salmon runs brought hope, only to be extinguished as five of those babies have since perished.

What can we do?

“The death of this calf is a stark reminder that the Southern Resident Community of orcas is in peril. They need all of us to band together and take whatever actions or steps we can to immediately help them recover. Steps can be huge, like restoring salmon runs, or smaller, like watching whales from a greater distance or even from shore. Why mention these?
The identified threats to the orcas as detailed by NOAA include: lack of food – salmon; contaminants and toxic waters; and increased pressure from vessels, including presence (being movement and exhaust emissions) and sound (which inhibits their ability to successfully forage and communicate).
One more suggestion – think about how much and what you consume. Seafood watch programs are good tools but they are only one aspect of making sustainable choices as they are only looking at stocks based on management for human consumption. The marine ecosystem needs should come first – factor in the hundreds of pounds of salmon the SRKWs need daily* before determining whether a choice is sustainable. The whales deserve our full attention and respect – let’s give them the right of way in ALL of our actions,” states the Whale Museum.

The Orca Conservatory is asking everyone to help save the whales. Please help.

J35 – “Her breaths are deep and long, she takes a few seconds longer to surface than the others. I can’t even pretend to imagine what she’s going through, but it must be horrible.”

Please take ACTION and call Senators Maria Cantwell & Patty Murray and demand immediate action for the SRKWs at:

Maria Cantwell – (206) 220-6400
Patty Murray – (206) 553-5545

Read the previous article here.

(Photo by Ken Balcomb)

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4 replies
  1. Adrienne says:

    This Orca is still mourning the death of her calf and glad the various groups are making sure she is not be disturbed, Watching from a distance is ok, but causing anymore upset or distress for this mother must not happen. Glad to see other groups are making sure this mother is left alone until she is ready to move on.

  2. Jan Barnes says:

    God bless this loving mother–her actions remind us that animals’ love can run deep–probably much deeper than that of most humans! Love and prayers that she can move on!


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