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

Tahlequah is no longer carrying her dead calf and appears to be vigorous and healthy as she swims with her pod in Haro Strait off San Juan Island on Saturday. Her ordeal of carrying her dead calf for at least 17 days and 1,000 miles is over

Researchers say an endangered killer whale thatcarried her dead calf on her head for more than two weeks has finally abandoned the calf's body and is back to feeding and frolicking with her pod.

Yesterday, the mother, J35, was spotted vigorously chasing a school of salmon with her pod-mates in mid-Haro Strait in front of the centre.

The behaviour displayed by J35 has many researchers stumped.

"The ordeal of J35 carrying her dead calf for at least seventeen days and [1600km] is now over, thank goodness", researcher Ken Balcomb said on Twitter. "She carried this for 17 months before it was born", Atkinson said. "These kinds of things are very hard to talk about or prove".

Image: J35, in the foreground, swimming without her calf. They hoped to capture the calf once Tahlequah finally let go, and discover why it had died - as almost all the babies in this pod seemed to die.

He said while it may appear J35 is displaying human-like emotion, it's too hard to distinguish between actual animal emotions and what humans project onto them.

"It's not surprising they're capable of deep feelings, and that's what (Tahlequah) is showing", Marino said.

"You can't judge another species by that".

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The young, malnourished animal was given a shot of antibiotics earlier this week in hopes of helping it fight an infection. The whales have been struggling because of a lack of salmon , and J35's calf died soon after birth on July 24.

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"The carcass has probably sunk to the bottom of these inland marine waters of the Salish Sea [between Canada and the US], and researchers may not get a chance to examine it for necropsy (autopsy of an animal)".

"Her tour of grief is now over and her behaviour is remarkably frisky", said a statement from the Centre for Whale Research.

But by the time a team from the Centre for Whale Research arrived to take pictures of the newborn, it sadly was no longer alive.

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.

Cottrell said the cross-border collaboration with their American counterparts has been very successful.

Howard Garrett, co-founder and board president of Orca Network, said he was relieved to hear the news.

Killer whales had previously been known to transport their dead calves for as long as a week, according to the CWR, which monitors the Southern Resident killer whale community.

Her calf died just 30 minutes after it was first spotted by a whale watch operator on July 24.

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