J35, the killer whale who kept her calf afloat for 17 days, is pregnant again

Tahlequah is part of the Southern Resident whales that live in the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest of the United States

by Federico Coppini
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J35, the killer whale who kept her calf afloat for 17 days, is pregnant again

Its history has torn hearts from all over the world. But Tahlequah, the J35 killer whale who carried its calf dead for 17 days on its back, traveling 1600 kilometres in Pacific waters in the hope that it would come back to life, is pregnant again.

Tahlequah is part of the Southern Resident whales that live in the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Killer whales are listed among the endangered species since 2005 and the positive outcome of her very long pregnancy – which lasts between 15 and 18 months on average – is far from obvious.

A third of gestations do not end with the birth of a living calf and to know the outcome, one can only wait and hope that the baby orca is healthy. Since early July, Holly Fearnbach and John Durban of Southall Environmental Associates have collected aerial images of most of the Southern Resident population and been able to confirm the advanced pregnancy of J35.

“Unfortunately, most recent pregnancies have not led to successful births,” explain the researchers. Studies by our colleagues at the University of Washington have shown that these reproductive failures are related to the nutrition and shortage of Chinook salmon, which is also on the verge of extinction.

It is therefore hoped that the killer whale has been able to feed enough to grow the foetus. “With such a small population – the latest estimate is 73 whales – each birth is extremely important for the recovery of the species”.

..... I REMEMBER ITS STORY, a true love story of a mother. After 17 days, the Orca J35 surrendered to reality and let go of its dead cub She kept it afloat for 17 long days. She traveled 1,600 kilometers in the waters of the Pacific Northwest, hoping that her baby would show some sign of life.

But it was all in vain. Now even the orca J35 has surrendered to reality. Even her mother's heart and love had to accept that her child is dead and will never return. She kept it afloat for over two weeks in a gesture that normally takes place in the early hours of birth when mothers, after giving birth, support and push the young with their heads to bring them over the surface of the water and make them take the first "Mouthful" of air.

In the 17 days when J35 was under strict control, the researchers did not fail to make them "find" some Chinooks, the real salmon that the killer whales are fond of. This sad story has also served to draw attention to the dramatic situation of these animals: the drastic reduction of real salmon, due to intensive fishing, excessive sea traffic and poor birth rate put the existence of this species at serious risk. She teached us what is the real meaning of love!