Orca whale mother's 'tour of grief' over after almost 3 weeks

Orca whale mother's 'tour of grief' over after almost 3 weeks

Researchers also believe that J35 has set the record for the longest period of time during which a mother orca has carried around her dead baby.

Mark Malleson, lead zodiac skipper with Victoria-based Prince of Whales Whale Watching, said he was shocked when spotting J35 towing her dead newborn near Sooke, B.C., in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off southern Vancouver Island.

Another struggling female in the same pod - J50, also known as Scarlet - was shot with antibiotics to fight an infection, since scientists worry that she has been losing a frightening amount of weight. In the last 20 years, only 25% of the babies have survived.

Scientists say the whale refused to part with the carcass for a whopping 17 days, in what they described as severe grieving. Evidence shows the orca brain is large, complex and highly developed in areas dealing with emotions, said Lori Marino, president of the Whale Sanctuary Project.

"I think sometimes we dishonour animals by giving them human feelings, or human rules and laws", said Haulena.

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"She literally is pushing her baby to connect with it and, hope against hope - hoping that it will take a breath, which it will never do", biologist and wildlife conservationist Jeff Corwin told CBSN last week.

So, when Tahlequah did not let her emaciated calf sink to the bottom of the Pacific, but rather balanced it on her head and pushed it along as she followed her pod, researchers thought they understood what was happening. "Everything we know about them says this is grieving". "Her tour of grief is now over and her behavior is remarkably frisky", according to a statement on the Center for Whale Research's website.

Atkinson said it made sense that Tahlequah's grief generated a global response. The CWR says 100% of pregnancies for Southern Resident killer whales over the past 3 years have failed to produce viable offspring. Manmade contraptions, like hydroelectric power sources, block the salmons' path to release eggs.

That was the beginning of a long funeral procession. They must learn to swim right away, Balcomb said, and rely on their mothers for food for several years - first through nursing, then through providing fish.

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