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Orca whale mother's 'tour of grief' over after almost 3 weeks

13 August 2018

Balcomb said he was immensely relieved to see J35 returning to typical behavior. "What's extraordinary about this is the length of time".

The center said whale-watchers near Vancouver, British Columbia, had reported seeing Tahlequah without her calf's body last week, but Saturday was the first time researchers were able to confirm those reports. The calf was born on July 24 near Victoria, but died shortly after being given life.

In circumstances like this, orcas are known to nudge along perished newborns for up to a week, preventing them from sinking by repeatedly propping them up on their foreheads in a desperate bid to keep them with the pod.

Balcomb said he also saw J50 with her mother and brother on Saturday, along with NOAA researchers who were following her to collect prey remains and feces.

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Tahlequah is one of two orcas in the pod that scientists have been monitoring.

These are grim signs.

Last week, the Times wrote, biologists and government officials began working on a plan to save the youngest living member of Talhequah's pod - a 3-year-old orca that appears to be on the brink of starvation.

Scientists say the whale refused to part with the carcass for a whopping 17 days, in what they described as severe grieving. 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.

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"This is something new; we never really experienced anything like this". Her emotional bond is simply too strong. "Everything we know about them says this is grieving".

"Her tour of grief is now over and her behaviour is remarkably frisky", explain scientists from the Centre for Whale Research, who monitor and study an endangered orca population called the Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW) in the Pacific Northwest.

Just like humans, Corwin said, grief has to "take its course".

The number of killer whales has continued to dwindle over the decades. According to NPR's Dwyer, the population of Southern Resident killer whales has decreased by about a quarter in the past 20 years, largely because their food source, the Chinook salmon, has also seen a dramatic population decline.

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Orca whale mother's 'tour of grief' over after almost 3 weeks