Orca seen grieving, carrying dead calf is now feeding, frolicking with pod

The heartbreaking story of an orca whale mother who has been carrying her deceased calfs body with her for more than 1,500 km has come to an end.

The Center for Whale Research announced Saturday that the mother orca in question - who goes by both Tahlequah and J35 - was seen swimming solo near British Columbia with her pod chasing a school of salmon. the first time it'd been seen without the body of her deceased calf since July 24. Since then, J35 had carried the baby on her head for 17 days.

An endangered killer whale that drew worldwide attention as she carried her dead calf on her head for more than two weeks has finally started feeding again. The carcass of her newborn has likely sunk.

"There had been reports from brief sightings by whale-watchers two days ago that J35 (Tahlequah) was not pushing the calf carcass in Georgia Strait near Vancouver", researchers said. Evidence shows the orca brain is large, complex and highly developed in areas dealing with emotions, said Lori Marino, president of the Whale Sanctuary Project. Whale experts say they have seen orcas mourn their offspring before, but J35 clung to her calf for an unusually long period of time. "What exactly she's feeling we'll never know".

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According to Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Center for Whale Research, the 20-year-old whale appeared healthy despite her weeks-long ordeal.

"It is a grief, a genuine mourning", he said.

Killer whales have been known to carry dead calves for a week, but scientists believe this mother "sets a record". There hasn't been a successful birth among the southern resident killer whales in three years.

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