Mama orca carries dead calf for third week

Mourning orca mother still carrying dead calf more than two weeks later on 'tour of grief'

J50 was observed to be moving well, diving and moving from group to group, but he cautioned that other whales in similar condition to J50 have not survived.

An global team of experts has been waiting for an opportunity to get close to the female killer whale so they can carry out an emergency plan that includes giving it antibiotics or feeding it live salmon at sea. She was last seen Thursday still carrying her calf. "They are very intelligent animals, and the loss of this animal is quite profound".

The southern resident killer whale is endangered.

Scientists are anxious that Tahlequah, or J35, is not getting adequate food because she has been carrying her baby for so long. "I think she is grieving".

Giles said the spotlight on the animals, while itself terrible news, has already led to skyrocketing worry about their plight. In addition, since J35 has just given birth, she "may have extra lipid stores built up" that were preparing her body for nursing.

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"Having not laid eyes on her personally before, it was dramatic how thin she is", Haulena said.

It's hard to watch, but for 17 days and counting, Tahlequah has been traveling 60-70 miles (97-112 kilometers) a day in strong current with her baby's corpse on her head, showing us what grief looks like.

Any intervention with the pod will be contingent on the behavior of the whales, as well as the weather and swell conditions.

Another orca in the critically endangered group of killer whales has pushed her dead calf for more than two weeks, raising concerns about her health.

"This is completely unprecedented, and honestly your guess is as good as ours as far as what is going on here", Deborah Giles, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology, said in a phone interview.

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They face nutritional stress over a lack of their preferred food source, Chinook salmon, as well as threats from toxic contamination and vessel noise and disturbances that disrupt their ability to communicate and forage. No babies have been born to this struggling orca pod in three years.

Experts have been watching the young whale lose weight since June and they took the novel action in an effort to prevent the loss of more reproductive potential within the population. That data has documented orcas that declined and then disappeared. A report is due later this year.

She said it became evident that "we needed to intervene to determine potentially what was the cause and whether there was anything we could do to assist her".

The task force is considering a range of efforts, from increasing hatchery production of salmon, training more private boats to help respond to oil spills, and prioritizing areas where important habitat can be restored.

They are anxious she isn't getting enough time to forage for food.

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Experts say Springer's case was different because she was isolated.

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