The 20-year-old killer whale (orca) known as J35 waited for 17 months to give birth to her new baby.
J35 is a member of a critically endangered population of southern resident killer whales gave birth near Victoria, British Columbia.
Suddenly, her newborn calf stopped moving and J35 watched her baby died less than an hour after giving birth to her.
It seemed J35 was not in the mood to leave her newborn baby.
For hours she mourned carrying the dead calf on her head as she swam. The hours turned into days, and on Thursday she was still seen pushing her baby to the water’s surface.
Ken Balcomb, a senior scientist with the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, which closely tracks individual whales said: ‘’The baby was so newborn it didn’t have blubber. It kept sinking, and the mother would raise it to the surface.’’
Deborah Giles, science and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca, told: ‘’’It is horrible. This is an animal that is a sentient being.’’
‘’It understands the social bonds that it has with the rest of its family members.’’
‘’The mother is bonded to the calf and she doesn’t want to let it go. It is that simple. She is grieving.’’
According to Dr Giles, the other members of the family knew J35 was pregnant because of their sonar, which the animals also use to communicate with one another.
‘’So, they must be grieving, too’’, she said.
J35 managed to do this repeatedly, all while fighting a strong current, Giles said. She added that it was likely the mother orca had also not eaten in days.
Female orcas have been having pregnancy problems because of nutritional stress linked to lack of salmon.
Dr Hanson said she looked thin and ‘clearly emaciated’ when he and others observed from a boat Saturday near San Juan Island while collecting the whale’s breath samples.
‘’You could see the shape of her skull through her blubber,’’
‘’I’ve never seen an animal this emaciated make it. But I’m hopeful that she will bounce back,’’ said Dr Giles.