For 11 days, an orca mother has carried her deceased newborn on her forehead.
The mother, known as J35, or Tahlequah, gave birth near Victoria, British Columbia, on July 24. According to the Center for Whale Research, the newborn whale was alive and swimming with its mother and other members of J pod near Clover Point on the Victoria shoreline in mid-morning.
As Center for Whale Research staff headed to Victoria to photograph the good news, the calf was found deceased.
The Southern resident killer whales are comprised of three pods, or groups in which they live in called J, K and L. The newborn will not be added to the resident population because of its short lifespan. The Center for Whale Research reports that about 75 percent of newborns in the last two decades have not survived, and 100 percent of pregnancies in the past three years have resulted in dead calves. Only 75 resident orcas remain.
Despite J35’s tireless efforts to keep her deceased baby afloat for more than a week, the mother is not showing signs of starvation or malnutrition.
According to Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research founder, there is no detectable deterioration of her health.
“She is obviously in distress,” he said.
For more information on the future of the Southern resident, whales read www.sanjuanjournal.com/life/southern-resident-orca-loses-calf-shortly-after-birth/.