Orca who carried dead calf for 17 days in mourning gives birth to new baby

A killer whale who made headlines two years ago while mourning her dead calf during a two-week “tour of grief” has reportedly given birth again.

The story of a grieving orca, dubbed J35 by scientists, who carried her dead calf with her for 17 days and nearly 1,000 miles in 2018, may end a happy one after news broke on Saturday that she had finally given birth to a healthy new calf, J57.

The newest member of the J-pod, an endangered population of so-called Southern Resident killer whales, who roam the Pacific between Washington state and British Columbia, Canada, appears to be “healthy and precocious,” according to the Center for Whale Research. The addition brings the pod, which counted 88 members in 2005, up to just 73 today.

“It’s a bit of a nail-biter right now,” said Deborah Giles, a whale researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology.

“I can’t help but be thrilled that she had this baby and this baby didn’t die right away,” she told the Times. “Everybody is worried and on pins and needles, wondering if this calf is going to make it.”

The Center made the discovery on Saturday, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island.

“The baby looked very robust and lively, so I have good expectations for this one surviving,” said Ken Balcomb, founding director of the Center for Whale Research. Two more whales in the pod are pregnant, added Balcomb, whose team will continue to monitor the group very closely.

Saturday’s marine display where J57 was first spotted frolicking among two other pods appeared playful and lively, according to the scientists.

“It was like a big picnic,” Balcomb said.

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