Grieving Orca Whale Releases Dead Calf After More Than Two Weeks

Orca Back to Feeding Frolicking after Carrying Dead Calf

An endangered orca that captivated the world with its "tour of grief" has returned to its pod after spending more than two weeks clinging to a dead and decomposing calf, researchers said Sunday.

Yesterday, the mother, J35, was spotted vigorously chasing a school of salmon with her pod-mates in mid-Haro Strait in front of the centre.

A mother orca tends to her deceased calf.

Writing on its website, the Center for Whale Research said Tahlequah's "tour of grief" was now over and that her behaviour was now "remarkably frisky". She was forever picking up the body as it sank, hoisting it out of the water to take a breath, and repeating.

Researchers were concerned that the orca's "deep grieving process", pushing the carcass for 1,000 miles off Washington state, was distracting it from foraging and feeding.

Another struggling female in the same pod - J50, also known as Scarlet - was shot with antibiotics to fight an infection, since scientists worry that she has been losing a frightening amount of weight. She was no long carrying her baby.

In this photo, taken Saturday and released by the Center for Whale Research, an orca known as J-35, foreground, swims with podmates near Friday Harbor, Alaska.

The Southern Resident killer whale, as J35 is listed, depends on the Chinook salmon for food. But J35's mourning, which lasted at least 17 days, marks the longest such display ever documented among southern resident killer whales. 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. "She carried this for 17 months before it was born", Atkinson said.

It says there had been reports "from brief sightings by whale-watchers" two days ago of J35 without her calf in the Georgia Strait near Vancouver.

She has featured in countless stories, including a report from Kara Kostanich for U.S. network ABC, which broke hearts when it was broadcast on August 1.

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