Killer Whale Who Grieved Her Dead Calf For 17 Days Is Pregnant Again

Killer Whale Who Grieved Her Dead Calf For 17 Days Is Pregnant Again

With a heavy heart, the world watched a poor killer whale's grief when she carried her dead calf around for 17 days, but the sea creature is now at the center of some good news, as she's expecting a new baby.

Tahlequah, or J35, as she's known by researchers, lost her newborn just half an hour after giving birth on July 25, 2018. Refusing to let it sink, she pushed her newborn toward the surface of the Pacific, outside the coast of Canada and the Northwestern of the United States.

Marine biologists following the whale were concerned about her emotional and physical health, but after a hard 17 days of grieving, the sea creature was finally seen without her calf.


Two years later, Tahlequah is now among the several pregnant killer whales that are monitored by SR3, a nonprofit organization specializing in marine life response, rehab, and research, which has recently recorded drone images of three different orca pods.

As 18 months is the typical gestation period for orcas, Tahlequah's new baby is still a 'long way away', according to scientists John Durban, senior scientist of Southall Environmental Associates, and Holly Fearnbach, marine mammal research director of SR3.

The mother will definitely need luck on her side when it comes to delivering her baby and keeping him alive. According to the Center for Whale Research, space for these orcas to feed is extremely important since the Southern Resident population is at a low of 73.

Tahlequah's calf, which died two years ago, would have been the southern residents' first in three years. However, since the poor baby's death, they've had two more calves, which both survived.


Fearnbach and Durban stressed that people can contribute to the protection of whales by respecting their space and letting them live in peace and quiet to allow them to use sound to hunt.

In a press release, the researchers explained their point:

Studies by our colleagues at the University of Washington have shown that these reproductive failures are linked to nutrition and access to their Chinook salmon prey.

So, we hope folks on the water can give the Southern Residents plenty of space to forage at this important time.

Tahlequah isn't the only Southern Resident orca expecting. Based on drone images, she's only one of several pregnant killer whales that have been identified by researchers since July, according to SR3.


According to SR3, the orca population is a big extended family consisting of three different groups, which are known as pods. Apparently, orcas from all three pods are expecting, but we don't know exactly how many.

It's not uncommon for females from all three pods to be expecting at the same time, but the group said most of the recent pregnancies have been unsuccessful.

The scientists are worried about Tahlequah's next calf, as she already has one, J47, to care for.

"We are concerned if she has a calf, will she be able to look after herself and the calf and J47, too? There has been a lot of talk. I am not sure a lot has changed for the whales," said Durban


SR3 shared some fascinating photos of Tahlequah and L72, another pregnant killer whale, including aerial pictures showing their bodies' changes between September and July.

Scientists now warn boats to stay away from killer whales and let them live peacefully.

We hope Tahlequah will have a happy ending to her pregnancy this time. That would really help both her family and the entire killer whale population growth.

Best of luck, Tahlequah!