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Mother Orca Spotted Carrying Dead Calf For 17th Day

Mother Orca Spotted Carrying Dead Calf For 17th Day

A grieving orca whose calf died last month just minutes after it was born was seen this week still carrying the tiny whale’s body around the Pacific Northwest, more than 17 days later.

Tahlequah, referred to by scientists as J35, was spotted Wednesday by Canadian scientists pushing the body of her calf off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula. She was seen again Thursday, still holding on to the remains.

Her apparent act of grief has tugged at the world’s heartstrings for weeks and shown the struggles faced by her endangered pod of southern resident killer whales. There are just 75 orcas in the group, and the calf was the first born alive since 2015.

“This is completely unprecedented, and honestly your guess is as good as ours as far as what is going on here,” Deborah Giles, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology, said in a phone interview. “I think it’s really easy to put human emotions on it, but personally I think it’s accurate. I think she is grieving.”