Orca abandons dead calf after 17-day vigil

Grieving Orca Whale Releases Dead Calf After More Than Two Weeks

Tahlequah was spotted Saturday chasing a school of salmon with her pod mates in the Haro Strait without the dead calf for a half-mile, the Washington-state based Center for Whale Research said.

She carried her deceased baby off the coast of Vancouver Island from July 24th until at least August 9th, when she may have been spotted by whale watchers who told CWR researchers that J35 was not pushing her calf's corpse.

Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb says he is immensely relieved to see J35 returning to typical behavior.

The Center for Whale Research has confirmed that the mother's "tour of grief" is finally over. NPR's Colin Dwyer previously reported that "given the fact that orcas move in matrilineal groups, dependent on mothers and grandmothers", Tahlequah's death would put her adult son and others in danger. She was no long carrying her baby. "And now we can confirm that she definitely has abandoned it".

A killer whale has stopped carrying her dead newborn calf after at least 17 days, during which she covered 1600km, scientists say. Researchers may not get the chance to perform a necropsy.

J35 carried her dead calf for an unprecedented 17 days.

Digital images of the mother orca taken from the shore show that she is in good physical condition and "her behaviour is remarkably frisky".

Balcomb said he also saw J50 with her mother and brother on Saturday, along with NOAA researchers who were following her to collect prey remains and feces.

Both Canada and the USA list the Southern Resident killer whale as endangered. The cause is no mystery: Humans have netted up the whales' salmon, driven ships through their hunting lanes and polluted their water, to the point that researchers fear Tahlequah's generation may be the last of her family. 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.

This week, the Times wrote, biologists and government officials began working on a plan to save the youngest living member of Talhequah's pod - a 3-year-old orca that appears to be on the brink of starvation.

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