More than two weeks after the death of her baby, a grieving orca whale has released her dead calf’s body after carrying it around the Pacific Northwest’s waters.
The adult female named Tahlequah, or J35 by scientists, was spotted swimming without her baby near San Juan Island off Washington’s coast on Saturday, scientists said.
According to Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Center for Whale Research, the 20-year-old whale appeared healthy despite her weeks-long ordeal.
“J35 frolicked past my window today with other J pod whales, and she looks vigorous and healthy,” he told Seattle-based station King 5 in an email.
Tahlequah captured nationwide attention after being spotted carrying her dead calf, which died about a half hour after being born on July 24, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
In addition to tugging at heartstrings, the calf’s loss was a major blow to the local endangered killer whales’ population, which has just 75 orcas. The calf, a female, was the first born alive since 2015.
Tahlequah is one of two orcas in the pod that scientists have been monitoring.
The second ― J50, also known as Scarlet ― is a 3-year-old who scientists have said is critically malnourished. Attempts to feed the young female were continuing this weekend.