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.
Our marine mammal experts have sighted #KillerWhale J50 and her mother J16 in US waters. J35 is with this pod and is still carrying her calf. We are continuing to work with @NOAAFish_WCRO and other partners to monitor the situation. https://t.co/QUxyv284GG pic.twitter.com/fziQ0JCQc2— DFO Pacific (@DFO_Pacific) August 8, 2018
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."
Lori Christopher's painting, See Me, depicting southern resident killer whale J-35 — also known as Tahlequa has now gone viral. pic.twitter.com/AAggaOpaUc— Marine Connection (@MC_org) August 5, 2018
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.
Southern Resident #KillerWhale J50’s very poor health condition is extremely concerning and warrants immediate action. We’re ready to respond quickly should the intervention need to occur in Canadian waters and we’ll take the best course of action for this whale without delay. pic.twitter.com/JVSDCaBhqd— DFO Pacific (@DFO_Pacific) August 9, 2018
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.