Tahlequah, an orca, lost a calf two years ago. At that time, she refused to let the calf's body sink and pushed it toward the surface of the Pacific ocean
Tahlequah, also known as J35, is a killer or orca whale. Two years ago, she lost a calf she was pregnant with. While we may think whales do not have or cannot express feelings as humans do, researchers confirmed that she grieved for 17 days straight. She carried her dead baby's body around for over two weeks. In some good news, however, the orca is carrying again, CNN reports. Even better yet, she is not the only Southern Resident who is expecting. Since early July, drone photos have shown that there are multiple killer whales who are pregnant and soon to deliver little whale babies.
The news was announced by SR3, a sea life response, rehab, and research group. This is the same group that followed Tahlequah as she swam for 17 days while carrying her dead newborn. She refused to let the calf's body sink and pushed it toward the surface of the Pacific off the coast of Canada and the Northwestern United States. Like this mother orca, other pregnant females have also experienced unsuccessful pregnancies as of late. As per the research team, the orca whale population is basically a large extended family constituted by three social groups (known as pods) and it is not uncommon for them to be pregnant at the same time. Reportedly, orca moms from each pod are expecting at present, though it is unclear just how many are carrying.
An online release from SR3 stated, "Studies by our colleagues at the University of Washington have shown that these reproductive failures are linked to nutrition and access to their Chinook salmon prey. So, we hope folks on the water can give the Southern Residents plenty of space to forage at this important time." Of course, expecting moms need lots of space and privacy at this time. Taking to the internet, the research group also shared photographs of Tahlequah as well as another pregnant female, L72. The photos depict their bodies from back in September last year when they were already several months into their pregnancies and more recent pictures from earlier this month. There are visible changes; particularly, they have increased widths mid-body, indicating that they are in their final stages of pregnancy. A true miracle!
The births of their calves are especially important as the Southern Resident population is at a terrible low at the moment—there are only 73 more of the species in the region. The K pod has the lowest at 17, while the J pod, which Tahlequah belongs to, has 22. The L pod is leading with 34. Sadly, according to the Center for Whale Research, the population size was reduced in number between the years 1965 to 1975 due to whale captures for marine park exhibition. During this period, at least 13 whales were killed as a result of these captures. 45 others, meanwhile, were delivered to marine parks around the world. One whale, Lolita (Tokitae), remains alive in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium. We will get another update about the orca population on December 31, which is when the organization performs a recount. By that time, we will know if all three pods had successful births. Killer whales, as per SR3, are pregnant for 17 to 18 months. Fingers are crossed for Tahlequah's little one.