Orca abandons body of her dead calf after 17-day journey

Tahlequah is no longer carrying her dead calf and appears to be vigorous and healthy as she swims with her pod in Haro Strait off San Juan Island on Saturday. Her ordeal of carrying her dead calf for at least 17 days and 1,000 miles is over

An endangered female orca is no longer carrying her dead calf around the Pacific Ocean, ending her almost three-week-long "tour of grief".

Ken Balcomb, executive director of the Center for Whale Research, spotted orca J35 with her pod off San Juan Island on Saturday, and said the ordeal of carrying her dead calf is over.

"J35 vigorously chased a school of salmon with her pod-mates in mid-Haro Strait in front of the Center for Whale Research for a half mile", they said.

The whales have been struggling because of a lack of salmon, and J35′s calf died soon after birth.

Paul Cottrell with Fisheries and Oceans Canada was audibly relieved to see J35 release the calf and return to her regular activities such as hunting.

The mother, preventing the body from sinking to the ocean floor, has been carrying it and nudging it toward the surface of the Pacific off the coast of Canada and the northwestern US.

J35's grief became an global story when photos of her carrying the dead calf hit the internet. "This is an animal that is grieving for its dead baby, and she doesn't want to let it go".

"Her tour of grief is now over and her behaviour is remarkably frisky", the Center for Whale Research said.

Approximately 75% of newborns have not survived in the two decades since the designation of the Southern Resident killer whale population as "Endangered", according to the Center for Whale Research. They must learn to swim right away, Balcomb said, and rely on their mothers for food for several years - first through nursing, then through providing fish.

"The remains must have fallen off in the day or two she was not seen, and drifted to the bottom", he said.

She has featured in countless stories, including a report from Kara Kostanich for USA network ABC, which broke hearts when it was broadcast on August 1.

"J35, the mom, seems to be doing well, very energetic and travelling with her family members", he said in an e-mail.

Scientists say the mother whale (foreground) appears healthy after she was pictured over the weekend without the calf.

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