Killer whale finally lets dead calf go

Grieving Orca Whale Releases Dead Calf After More Than Two Weeks

An apparently grieving female orca whale who swam with the body of her dead calf for more than two weeks has stopped carrying the carcass, environmental officials said.

The mother carried the baby on her head for at least 17 days, in an image of grief that struck an emotional chord worldwide.

According to a report from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Tahlequah was spotted pushing around her dead calf in July 24.

Whale experts say they have seen orcas mourn their offspring before for up to a week, but J35 clung to her calf for an unusually long period of time.

The Centre for Whale Research released this photo of J-35, in the foreground, chasing salmon with her pod on Saturday.

"Her tour of grief is now over and her behavior is remarkably frisky", read an update on the research center's website.

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"The baby's carcass was sinking and being repeatedly retrieved by the mother, who was supporting it on her forehead and pushing it in choppy seas", the CWR said in a statement at the time. According to NPR's Dwyer, the population of Southern Resident killer whales has decreased by about a quarter in the past 20 years, largely because their food source, the Chinook salmon, has also seen a dramatic population decline.

Researchers had anxious J35, who was last spotted with her dead calf Wednesday, was not eating properly and was spending too much energy pushing the corpse.

"I am sobbing. I can't believe she is still carrying her calf around", Giles told the Seattle Times. It couldn't have been easy for her. Tahlequah's pod travels dozens of miles in a day, Chiu wrote, and she pushed her baby's hundreds of pounds every inch of the way.

J35 was spotted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada while they were searching for another of the 75 southern resident killer whales, which are labelled an endangered species in both Canada and the United States.

Researchers with the Canadian and US governments and other organizations tracked her all the while, the Seattle Times wrote.

It was a journey of love, driven by a mother's loss, stretching across a thousand miles of ocean as the world watched and wondered.

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