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Killer Whale Who Once Carried Dead Calf For 17 Days Has Given Birth Again

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Killer Whale Who Once Carried Dead Calf For 17 Days Has Given Birth Again

A killer whale who once carried her dead new-born calf for 17 days has given birth again.

Tahlequah, also known as J35 to researchers, hit the headlines back in 2018 when she swam for over 1,000 miles (1,600km) while holding her dead calf.

But according to the Centre for Whale Research in Washington, US, she has now been spotted with her new calf, J57, in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca in US waters.

Sharing the exciting news on their website, a spokesperson from the Centre for Whale Research wrote: "Hooray! Her new calf appeared healthy and precocious, swimming vigorously alongside its mother in its second day of free-swimming life."

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According to the centre, it's believed the calf was born last Friday (4 September).

This is welcome news following the tragic photographs of Tahlequah that were shared online two years ago.

Tahlequah with her new-born J57. Credit: Katie Jones/Center for Whale Research
Tahlequah with her new-born J57. Credit: Katie Jones/Center for Whale Research

Orcas have been known to carry their dead babies for around a week, but experts said that Tahlequah set a 'record' in 2018.

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Refusing to let her calf sink, Tahlequah pushed it towards the surface of the Pacific off the coast of Canada.

Speaking at the time, Ken Balcomb, senior scientist at the Centre for Whale Research, said: "We've seen mother whales carry dead babies briefly, for parts of a day. We saw one a few years back for a couple days. But this sets a record."

Tahlequah lives in a large community, made up of three pods with 72 whales.

Drones caught footage of several pregnant whales earlier this year, but scientists have warned that while pregnancies aren't unusual within the Southern Resident killer whales, the majority of recent ones have not ended in successful births.

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Tahlequah's 2018 baby was the first for the whales in three years, but there has since been two more calves born in two of the pods that are both still alive.

In a statement, the researchers said: "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."

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Speaking to the Seattle Times Times scientist John Durban, from Southhall Environmental Associates, said: "People need to appreciate these are special whales in a special place at a vulnerable time. These whales deserve a chance."

Featured Image Credit: Katie Jones/Center for Whale Research

Topics: Science, conservation, Inspirational, Wildlife

Dominic Smithers
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