Tahlequah, mother of the orca whale, whose fate has mesmerized people all over the world, no longer carries her calf.
Tahlequah, the mother's orca, no longer carries her dead calf.
"J35 raged past my window today Other J Pod Wale, and she looks strong and healthy," wrote Ken Balcomb, founding director of the Center for Whale Research, in an e-mail to the Seattle Times. "The ordeal in which she has been carrying a dead calf for at least seventeen days and 1,000 miles is now over, thank God."
J35, also known as Tahlequah, is part of the endangered South Korean killer whale population. Balcombe said that J35 has probably lost two more offspring since the birth of a male calf in 201
The loss of the last calf "could have been emotionally hard for her," Balcomb said. "She's alive and well, and at least about that part of her grief. Today was the first day I've seen for sure, it's not there anymore."
J35 showed no sign of "peanut head," a condition Malnutrition in an Orca reveals how skull bones begin to show. "She ate," Balcomb said.
People around the world were moved by the plight of the Southerners when Tahlequah carried her dead baby, a female, day after day.
Another member of the population, a 4½-year-old man known as J50, is ill. Biologists worked over the weekend to monitor their condition.
The Lummi Nation is also available to feed J50 live salmon, possibly on Sunday.
A J50 veterinary check on Thursday evening encouraged veterinarians and biologists who said their condition is better than expected. But she remains terribly thin and severely malnourished.
The lack of food has also been linked to the failure of the southern inhabitants for three years to produce offspring.
"The reason why J35 lost her baby and the others lose their babies is that there are not enough salmon," Balcomb said about the whale's primary food source. "Hopefully we will do something about it."
It may be that Tahlequah, instead of deciding to drop the baby, simply fell apart forever. When the calf was sighted last Thursday, it started to deteriorate.
Tahlequah had clung emphatically to his calf, gripping his calf every time it slipped off her head.
The biologists are worried that they could not eat anything and might end up in danger.
At age 20, Tahlequah is an exceptionally valuable member of the endangered clan in the south, possibly with years of reproductive potential ahead of her. If she can get enough to eat.
Scientific research has shown that at least three problems cause the clan's decline in the south, in the J, K and L pods of the orca whales.
Ship noise interrupts her search behavior. Toxins are released from their bacon when they burn their fat because they are hungry. And malnutrition in a top predator that has to swim 75 miles a day is a devastating blow. Hunger makes her other problems worse.
Tahlequah's behavior was not unusual. It is well known that orcas, dolphins and other mammals, including gorillas, carry their deceased offspring, which is widely regarded by scientists as an expression of grief .
But Tahlequah's Witness was extraordinary in its duration – unprecedented among the documented examples.
Sheila Thornton, senior killer whale biologist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said that strong social ties between orcas families control much of their behavior. The southern inhabitants share food, a common language, a culture where only fish are eaten, and an ecological knowledge of where to find them in their homeland.
Today, with only 75 members in the southwestern clan, the question is, what will be done now to save them from extinction?