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Orca mother continues to carry dead calf 17 days later

A story that has tugged heartstrings across the globe continued on Thursday.

More than two weeks since her newborn calf died, the orca is known to researchers as J-35 or Tahlequah, was sighted again yesterday still carrying her dead calf's body.

According to NOAA Fisheries, who observe the whales, the calf was born July 24, but died shortly after birth and the mother has since refused to let go.

In an Op-Ed with the New York Times, author and professor Barbara King, who specifically studies animal emotion, called the mother orca's actions an act of grief.

"Science backs up an assessment of the orca J35’s behavior — carrying her dead calf in the water for more than 10 days — as grief," wrote King.

"We can’t know what these animals think about death, but we can document their visible expressions of intense emotion around the body of a family member or friend. Grief and love don’t belong to just us."

Wednesday’s spotting was the first time the pair had been seen since last week.

The J-pod is part of the critically endangered southern resident population of orca whales, with only 75 individuals left.

Orcas only give birth to a single calf at a time and reproduce every five to 10 years. The last successful birth in this paticular population was three years ago.

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