Orca that carried dead baby for 17 days gives birth again

Hyperaxion September 7, 2020 11:42 pm

According to researchers at the University of Washington, the calf appears to be robust and lively, an indication that it will survive.

In 2018, the orca Tahlequah moved the world when she was observed carrying her dead baby for 17 days. During this period, she traveled approximately 1600 kilometers in the Pacific Ocean, where she lives.

Now, almost two years later, Tahlequah has made headlines again. This Sunday (6), the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, announced that the orca recently gave birth.

Orca that carried dead baby for 17 days gives birth again
Tahlequah and her calf. (Credit: Katie Jones / Center for Whale Research).

Scientists are excited about the discovery, as Tahlequah’s group has only 73 remaining orcas.

“I can’t help but be thrilled that she had this baby and this baby didn’t die right away,” said Deborah Giles, a whale researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology. “Everybody is worried and on pins and needles, wondering if this calf is going to make it.”

As the researchers explain, young orcas have a very low chance of survival: around 30%.

Another pregnant orca. You can see the size variation over time. Orca pregnancies last an average of 18 months.
Another pregnant orca. You can see the size variation over time. Orca pregnancies last an average of 18 months. (Credit: SR3 and NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in 2019 and SR3 and SEA in 2020, collected under NMFS research permit 19091).

According to a study published by the institution in 2017 in the journal Plos One, the stress caused by hunger due to the lack of salmon is related to the low reproductive success of the species.

Population monitoring is done as part of a long-term study of the conditions of a group called southern resident orcas, which are endangered.

Photographs are taken non-invasively by a remotely activated drone, flying more than 30 meters over the specimens.

(Credit: Katie Jones / Center for Whale Research).

According to experts, the calf, named J, appears to be lively and robust, a good indication that it will survive.

“J35’s new calf appeared healthy and precocious, swimming vigorously alongside its mother in its second day of free-swimming life,” the researchers wrote on Facebook.

Another good news is that two more orcas in the group appear to be pregnant.

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