Killer whale carries dead calf for week during 'deep grieving'

Killer whale carries dead calf for week during 'deep grieving'

Killer whale carries dead calf for week during 'deep grieving'

The mother killer whale, called J35 by researchers, was seen five days after the birth pushing the calf's carcass in the water off Canada.

Experts with the Whale Museum on San Juan Island have been watching the 20-year-old southern resident killer whale, known as J35, since Tuesday when her calf died shortly after it was born.

The Center for Whale Research says approximately 75-percent of newborns in the recent two decades following designation of the "Southern Resident killer whale" population as "endangered" have not survived, and 100 percent of the pregnancies in the past three years have failed to produce viable offspring.

Orcas typically carry a stillborn calf for about a day or so after its death, according to researchers.

Atkinson said the corpse has been carried north of Vancouver and south near Whidbey Island. "I don't even know what the word for that is, but that is where she is".

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Atkinson told The Associated Press earlier that the pod is experiencing a "deep grieving process".

"But she seems to be really tender with it as they're moving through with water", Atkinson said.

"I am so terrified for her well-being", Deborah Giles, a research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca, told The Seattle Times.

More specifically, humans are rapidly lowering the population of Chinook salmon - the orca's main food source - by polluting and destroying their oceanic habitats, not to mention harvesting the fish at rapid rates. Tahlequah has held onto the dead calf as she and her pod continue their migration loop in the Salish Sea from Washington state to British Columbia. Ken Balcomb with the Center for Whale Research says the dead calf was seen Tuesday being pushed to the surface by her mother just a half hour after it was spotted alive.

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