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
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.


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

'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'.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Emily Court is a passionate ethical vegan from Eastern Canada. She is a Challenge 22 Mentor, Digital Writer, and experienced animal advocate driven by issues of animal liberation and social justice. She studied at Dalhousie University, where her thesis highlighted intercultural and gender relations. She is an established public speaker, writer, and world traveller with a drive to provide a voice to those who might not otherwise have one. You can follow her on Instagram @emily.j.court or on Twitter @_EmilyJCourt_.

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