'Grieving' Orca Mother Finally Abandons Dead Calf After Two Weeks

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An endangered orca's "tour of grief" is over after she spent almost three weeks towing her dead calf around the Pacific Ocean, researchers said Sunday.

The whale was seen "vigourously chasing" salmon with her pod in the Haro Strait off the coast of Victoria on Saturday afternoon.

The centre said whale-watchers near Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada, had reported seeing Tahlequah without her calf's body last week, but Saturday (local time) was the first time researchers were able to confirm those reports.

The Center for Whale Research has confirmed that the mother's "tour of grief" is finally over.

According to Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Center for Whale Research, the 20-year-old whale appeared healthy despite her weeks-long ordeal.

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. Typically, Atkinson said, researchers have seen mothers carry stillborn calves for "a day or so".

J35 (Talequah) swimming with her pod-mates after ending her "tour of grief" August 11, 2018.

This continued for 17 days, with Tahlequah pushing the calf along in waters near Canada's Vancouver Island.

Researchers say they are immensely relieved to see J35 returning to typical behaviour
Researchers say they are immensely relieved to see J35 returning to typical behaviour Credit Center for Whale Research

But she's also known as Tahlequah.

Researchers were hoping to collect the carcass after J35 let it go to find out why it died.

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

Experts had been concerned about the mother's condition and anxious that the time and energy spent clinging onto the infant's body could take away from time spent foraging or feeding.

The CWR added that the baby's carcass has probably sunk to the bottom of the Salish Sea, meaning that researchers may not get a chance to examine it.

"The population (of orcas) is both Canadian and American in terms of moving back and forth, so it's been a real coordination between governments, NGOs, and also the research community", he said.

The CWR says 100% of pregnancies for Southern Resident killer whales over the past 3 years have failed to produce viable offspring.

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