Whale that carried dead calf for 17 days of grief gives birth to new baby

    Vancouver – Killer whale, J35, Tahlequah – captivated the world by carrying her dead calf on her head on a 17-day tour of grief during the summer of 2018.

    Now, she has given birth to a baby, in the last couple of days.

    And marine scientists are ecstatic because this calf appears healthy.

    Mom and baby seem healthy – Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research

    Tahlequah “made world news in the summer of 2018 when she carried her dead calf on her head for 17 days while the pod traveled about 1,000 miles around the Salish Sea on what we termed a ‘Tour of Grief’.”

    “She was still capable of producing a live calf after an approximate eighteen-month gestation! Hooray! Her new calf appeared healthy and precocious, swimming vigorously alongside its mother in its second day of free-swimming life,” said the Center for Whale research.

    “We know that it was not born today because its dorsal fin was upright, and we know that it takes a day or two to straighten after being bent over in the womb,” the centre said in a statement.

    The whales are endangered because of low salmon supplies and many new calves don’t survive.

    The centre said the newborn was identified when marine researchers launched three boats to take a closer look at pods.

    “So we launched three boats with researchers (two from San Juan Island and one from Victoria) to photo-identify every individual for a population census.

    “Usually, we have an accurate census of these charismatic Pacific Northwest ‘residents’ by July 1 each year.

    “But this year, the salmon spawning migrations to the Fraser River have been so poor that the whales that must eat these salmon to survive have rarely come into what used to be their core summer habitat.”

    “We have had comprehensive encounters with J pod in Haro Strait on September 1 and 3, 2020, at which times we monitored pregnant females J35 and J41 very carefully and saw that they had not yet given birth.”

    “On September 5, we followed up on a report from one of the PWWA whalewatchers that a very small calf was seen.

    “Our researchers, Dave Ellifrit and Katie Jones, accompanied by guest veterinarian Dr. Sarah Bahan, quickly identified the mother as J35, Tahlequah.”

     “We hope this calf is a success story. Regrettably, with the whales having so much nutritional stress in recent years, a large percentage of pregnancies fail, and there is about a 40% mortality for young calves.”

    “With this new calf in J pod, that we designate as J57, the SRKW population now numbers 73.”