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Grieving mother orca falling behind family as she carries dead calf for eighth day

She must be in anguish. What is beyond grief? I don’t even know what the word for that is, but that is where she is.

LYNDA V. MAPES: ‘A grieving mother orca is falling behind her group as she labors through the water at about 6 knots, continuing to carry her dead calf in an eighth day of mourning. J35, or Tahlequah, gave birth the morning of July 24 to the calf, which lived for only one half-hour. She has refused to let go of it ever since, carrying the infant either by one fin, or pushing it through the water on her head… J pod, the mother’s clan, has been staying with her and has turned out in force, with more members of the pod by the day staying with her…

Giles said the whale was in labor at this time last week, and probably was not eating then.”I feel so sad for that family. And for her mental state she must be in anguish. What is beyond grief? I don’t even know what the word for that is, but that is where she is.” The calf remains intact day after day, perhaps preserved by the cold water. Every time it slips from her grip, Tahlequah has to dive deeply to retrieve it. “She has to prime herself six, seven breaths to take a deep, long dive to go get that carcass,” Giles said. “What is killing me is when is it going to be the last time? And she has to make that decision not to go get it”…

Researchers who work with the critically endangered orcas are concerned for the mother’s health — and ache for her. “I am so terrified for her well-being,” said Deborah Giles, research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca. “She is a 20-year-old breeding-age female and we need her”… On Sunday, Tahlequah was surrounded by her entire family. Researchers who are with the whales daily have been concerned for her, especially as to whether she is getting enough to eat. “This has to be so hard for her,” said Michael Weiss of the University of Exeter, who with the Center for Whale Research at Friday Harbor was monitoring the clan Sunday as the whales surged alongside her’. SOURCE…


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