Mother orcas gestate for 17 months, and the babies nurse for about a year after that.
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The calf came from an endangered clan of orcas, known as southern resident killer whales, and was born near British Columbia, Canada on Tuesday, according to Center for Whale Research (CWR), an organization focusing on orca surveys in the USA state of Washington. It was a baby girl.
According to CTV News, it was the first calf born in three years in the Pacific Northwest.
Wrote Shedd, "Her perfectly curved dorsal fin, her brilliant white saddle patch with the faintest of scratches and black finger, and the tiniest of notches at the base of her dorsal fin that in the right light catches the sun and just shines for a moment".
Then, the calf stopped moving and J35 experienced a mother's worst horror. They noticed that the calf, unfortunately, died within a few hours after the birth.
But J35 wasn't ready to say goodbye. Less than an hour later, researchers saw her pushing her baby's carcass up with her nose.
The sad spectacle began Tuesday when Tahlequah gave birth to a calf that lived for only a half-hour. Each day, she averaged anywhere between 100 to 110kms, all while working to keep a her baby's 180kg body afloat.
Biologist Deborah Giles with the Center for Conservation Biology called the pictures "heartbreaking" and said they show how socially bonded the species is.
However, he also adds that there are "man-made solutions to this man-made problem".
Now, if all of this to just too depressing - mourning mothers and dead calves and the dim future of beloved marine mammal - Balcomb says there are solutions. "We don't really know", he said. She continues to mourn carry her dead calf for a fifth straight day.
"That's part of what people are picking up on, like 'my God I would feel the same way, '" she said.
The population of Orcas, better known as Killer Whales, has been declining in recent years.
People around the world have been watching the grieving whale and her family, members of the critically endangered southern resident clan of orcas that frequent the waters of the inland Salish Sea in summer. Balcomb also says we should reconsider certain dams that create more environmental upheaval and economic cost than they're worth.
The whale was last seen pushing the calf the following evening off Saturna Island, Canada. "Their reproductive life is about 25 years". A report is due later this year.
Reproduction rates for the population have been dismal. Since 2015, no pregnancies have produced viable offspring. "This is exactly the opposite of what we need to be happening". Researchers have not yet determined what caused J35's baby to die, but Balcomb believes "malnutrition of the mother is most likely". Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order in March directing state agencies to take immediate action to help the orcas.
What's being described as a "gut-wrenching" scene is playing out in Puget Sound, and it's been going on for at least three days. Annually, almost 200,000 people visit the Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island to view the whales from land, the memo said. "She has to metabolize her body fat to produce milk and if she doesn't have any body fat, she can't produce any milk, therefore the baby can't eat", he said. "It actually breaks your heart".
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