Mother Orca Drops Her Dead Calf After 17 Days Of Grief

Tahlequah's pod has been unable to successfully reproduce for three years due to salmon shortages
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Tahlequah carries her calf (Photo: Michael Weiss, Center for Whale Research)

Tahlequah carries her calf (Photo: Michael Weiss, Center for Whale Research)

Tahlequah,
an orca who is a member of a 'critically endangered' population, is finally
without her offspring after 17 days of carrying her - in a tragic display which
captivated many.

Loss

This is estimated
to be Tahlequah's third such loss since 2010 - all deaths prompted by salmon shortages,
which have kept the population from producing healthy offspring for three
years.

The mother orca carried her most recent calf for many days on her own - retrieving her
every time she slipped from her head - but the pair's pod eventually lightened the
load, helping her travel roughly 1,000 miles with her offspring.

Aquatic mammals are known for such displays of grief - although none as long as Tahlequah's

Aquatic mammals are known for such displays of grief - although none as long as Tahlequah's

'Unprecedented' display

While research has shown that aquatic mammals do have the capacity for such displays
of what is believed to be grief - Tahlequah's ordeal is unlike any other
previously documented.

It is
unclear whether it finally came to an end because she wilfully dropped her calf, or because it had deteriorated over the 17-day period.

'Alive and
well'

Fortunately,
the Center For Whale Research's Ken Balcomb has said that Tahlequah is 'alive
and well' - and has 'been eating'.

He said
also that something will 'hopefully' be done about the salmon shortages to
prevent losses such as Tahlequah's, which he noted 'may have been emotionally
hard for her'.