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Orca Tahlequah ‘who mourned her dead calf for 17 DAYS’ gives birth

An orca named Tahlequah who touched the hearts of people around the world in 2018 after carrying her dead calf for 17 days has had a new baby.

The 21-year-old killer whale – or ‘killer whale’ – gave birth to her new calf, dubbed ‘J57’ by researchers, in the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca in US waters on Sept. 4.

According to the Whale Research Center, Tahlequah and her new calf appear to be healthy as the child “swims vigorously next to his mother.”

Tahlequah gave birth to one calf in 2010 that survives to this day – ‘J47’, also known as ‘Notch’ – but she also miscarried in mid-2010 before losing the 2018 calf shortly after birth. Experts feared she would likely lose this new one too.

An orca named Tahlequah who touched the hearts of people around the world in 2018 after carrying her dead calf for 17 days gave birth to a new baby

An orca named Tahlequah who touched the hearts of people around the world in 2018 after carrying her dead calf for 17 days gave birth to a new baby

Her pregnancy was first reported by whale watchers in July after experts from the Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research conservation group determined she was larger than normal.

‘We hope that people on the water will be able to give the inhabitants of the South sufficient space to forage during this important time. With such a small population, any successful delivery is hugely important to recovery, ” the nonprofit wrote at the time.

So it was a relief for experts when J57, which was given another common name by the research team, was born between Washington state and Vancouver Island.

According to the Whale Research Center, Tahlequah and her new calf appear to be healthy as the child is 'swimming vigorously next to his mother'

According to the Whale Research Center, Tahlequah and her new calf appear to be healthy as the child is 'swimming vigorously next to his mother'

According to the Whale Research Center, Tahlequah and her new calf appear to be healthy as the child is ‘swimming vigorously next to his mother’

The 21-year-old killer whale - or 'killer whale' - gave birth to her new calf, named 'J57' by researchers, in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca in US waters on Sept. 4.

The 21-year-old killer whale - or 'killer whale' - gave birth to her new calf, named 'J57' by researchers, in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca in US waters on Sept. 4.

The 21-year-old killer whale – or ‘killer whale’ – gave birth to her new calf, dubbed ‘J57’ by researchers, in the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca in US waters on Sept. 4.

‘Hoera! Her new calf looked healthy and precocious and swam vigorously next to her mother on the second day of the free-swimming life, ‘said researchers.

The center has not released the sex of the new calf because the observations were cut off.

It said that when Tahlequah was spotted she was largely separated from the other whales and was “ very evasive ” when she crossed the border into Canada.

“So we ended our meeting with her after a few minutes and wished them the best on their way,” the center said. “We hope this calf will be a success story.”

Researchers cannot say exactly when the calf was born, but set the date of birth as September 4 due to the fact that the dorsal fin was erect when they saw it.

“ We know it takes a day or two to straighten out after bending over in the womb, so we’re assigning the birthday to September 4, 2020, ” the team explained.

Her pregnancy was first reported by whale watchers in July after experts from the Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research Conservation Group determined she was taller than normal

Her pregnancy was first reported by whale watchers in July after experts from the Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research Conservation Group determined she was taller than normal

Her pregnancy was first reported by whale watchers in July after experts from the Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research Conservation Group determined she was taller than normal

Tahlequah gained worldwide fame in 2018 when she carried her stillborn calf for 17 days – and over 1,000 miles – across the Salish Sea off Washington State.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN THREATS TO THESE KILLER WHALES?

According to NOAA, the Southern Resident Killer Whales face three major threats:

  • Lack of prey
  • Boat traffic and noise
  • Chemical contaminants

Chinook salmon is the most nutrient-dense prey available to orcas.

But the salmon population has declined sharply in recent years, spelling disaster for the whales that depend on them.

Noise and overcrowding from boat traffic are considered one of the biggest threats to their existence, along with modern day pollution and contaminants that linger in the water from chemicals banned decades ago

According to NOAA, the main pollutants of concern are PCBs (found in plastic, paint, rubber, electrical equipment), DDT (found in pesticides), and PBDEs (fire-retardant chemicals found in mattresses, TVs, toasters, for example).

Seen as a form of grief in another species, her story captivated the media and the general public, drawing attention to the plight of orcas in the Pacific.

Population ecologist John Durban of Southall Environmental Associates and marine mammal expert Holly Fearnbach of SR3 (Sealife Response + Rehab + Research) have conducted long-term studies on the orcas that visit Puget Sound.

Using remote-controlled drone surveillance from a height of 30 meters, the researchers were able to assess the whales’ body conditions non-invasively.

Sadly, the Pacific Ocean’s resident southern whales – of which there are currently only 72 – are endangered, meaning new births are vital.

Experts say a lack of salmon – and the resulting stress from starvation – has been linked to the poor reproductive conditions of the southern resident whale.

They are also threatened by pollution and underwater noise, the latter interfering with the orcas’ sound-based hunting ability.

The researchers are concerned that some of the juveniles in the three pods look skinny, including Tahlequah’s live calf, J47.

“There are stressed whales out there, critically stressed,” Dr. Fearnbach told the Seattle Times, adding that the drone study showed that the whales are dispersed in small groups.

This, she explained, is a sign that they are working hard to find food – and accordingly spend less time socializing.

Both researchers said that during their field studies this year, they observed a significant amount of boat traffic in the area where the whales frequent – much of it going way too fast, which also makes for more underwater noise.

It said that when Tahlequah was spotted she was largely separated from the other whales and was `` very evasive '' when she crossed the border into Canada.

It said that when Tahlequah was spotted she was largely separated from the other whales and was `` very evasive '' when she crossed the border into Canada.

It said that when Tahlequah was spotted she was largely separated from the other whales and was “ very evasive ” when she crossed the border into Canada.

The approximately 21-year-old killer whale, or 'killer whale,' called Tahlequah, or J35, touched hearts around the world as news of her grieving process spread. Tahlequah carried her dead calf, balancing on her forehead, for 17 days before releasing it

The approximately 21-year-old killer whale, or 'killer whale,' called Tahlequah, or J35, touched hearts around the world as news of her grieving process spread. Tahlequah carried her dead calf, balancing on her forehead, for 17 days before releasing it

The approximately 21-year-old killer whale, or ‘killer whale,’ called Tahlequah, or J35, touched hearts around the world as news of her grieving process spread. Tahlequah carried her dead calf, balancing on her forehead, for 17 days before releasing it

Dr. Holly Fearnbach and Dr. John Durban of Southall Environmental Associates (SEA) first took photos of Tahlequah looking pregnant in July 2020. She gave birth on September 4.

Dr. Holly Fearnbach and Dr. John Durban of Southall Environmental Associates (SEA) first took photos of Tahlequah looking pregnant in July 2020. She gave birth on September 4.

Dr. Holly Fearnbach and Dr. John Durban of Southall Environmental Associates (SEA) first took photos of Tahlequah looking pregnant in July 2020. She gave birth on September 4.

“People need to realize that these are special whales in a special place in a vulnerable time,” Dr. Durban told the Seattle Times, adding that boats must give the animals the space and tranquility they need to survive.

He concluded, “These whales deserve a chance.”

Because the whales have had so much nutritional stress in recent years, a large percentage of pregnancies fail and there is approximately 40 percent mortality among young calves.

“With this new calf in J pod, which we refer to as J57, the population is now 73, although the official number for July 1 is estimated at 72,” the team said.

‘We have to go through all the photos to see which whales were still alive yesterday, and it follows that they would have been alive by July 1.

“The July Census is used for consistency compared to the population of orcas in the north of the country monitored by DFO Canada.”

WHY SCIENTISTS THINK WHALES AND DOLPHINS STIR

Whales and dolphins have been spotted several times carrying or caring for their dead young.

These beings may mourn or have not accepted or acknowledged that the offspring or companion has passed away.

Scientists still don’t know if aquatic mammals really recognize death and are looking for more research on the matter.

In 2016, scientists found evidence that whales and dolphins ‘keep watch’ for their dead.

They analyzed several cases where mammals clung to the bodies of dead countrymen and watched over a dead companion.

At the time, they said the most likely explanation was grief.

The study collected observations from 14 events.

They found that mothers often carried their dead young above the water, often flanked by friends.

In many cases, the dead offspring had decomposed, indicating that they had been held for a long time.

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