Last Thursday, off the coast of Washington state, an orca could be observed carrying her dead calf. Astonishingly, this represents the process of grief that a mother goes through after her child has died. It was the 17th day of this journey that left a big impact on the world.
The story unfolds
On July 25th, the mother, called Tahlequah, gave birth. This came as incredibly great news for her clan, as it suffered for a long time. The pod of orcas is known for swimming between San Juan and Vancouver. However, over the last decades their numbers decreased until today when we can see only 75 members.
What is the cause?
As with many of the other environmental crises, humans are to be blamed here too. We put down nets to catch their salmon, we drive ships across their hunting lanes and we constantly pollute the oceans. Scientists fear that Tahlequah’s current family may be the last generation to swim in those waters.
Why would it be the last one?
The baby orca that died, weighing 400 pounds and boasting an orange-tinted appearance was the first calf to be born in the clan since 2015. He was alive only for a half an hour.
Why did the mother carry its dead baby?
Although we tend to anthropomorphize animals and share with them our own features, it seems that orcas can really empathize and they are incredibly intelligent as well. Apparently, among the range of emotions that they can experience, we can find grief as well.
That’s why scientists knew exactly why Tahlequah didn’t let go of her calf, even after the young one has died. The mother kept it balanced on her head and pushed it along as she travelled with her clan. It was like a real funeral procession.