Grieving mother orca refuses to let go of her dead calf

An orca whale continued to carry her dead calf for several days.

A member of the critically endangered southern resident family of orcas, J-35, gave birth to her calf recently. Sadly, her calf passed away within a few hours, as reported by CBC.

Since then, the mother has been carrying her baby's lifeless body around on her nose, unwilling to let it go.

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Mark Malleson, a Victoria-based skipper, saw something odd among a group of orcas near San Juan Island, Washington.

"I looked through the binoculars and I saw that there was a new calf swimming with them," Malleson said.

"Then, as I got the angle turned so I could actually see the saddle patch with the binoculars, [I] realized we've got resident killer whales," he added.

Malleson then notified the Center for Whale Research.

When the researchers arrived at the scene, they discovered the mother, J-35, balancing her baby on her nose attempting to keep it floating. However, the calf was dead.

Dr. Anna Hall, a marine biologist with the Center for Whale Research, said: "Having a newborn, there were a few moments of brief, brief happiness, and then followed by disappointment and sadness."

"This is a population that is clearly struggling in terms of numbers."

Over 24 hours of mourning is a rare occurrence, according to Deborah Giles, a research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca, Komonews.com reported.

Giles told the Associated Press: "It is horrible. This is an animal that is a sentient being."

"It understands the social bonds that it has with the rest of its family members. She carried the calf in her womb from 17 to 18 months, she is bonded to it and she doesn't want to let it go. It is that simple. She is grieving."

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