Endangered killer whale carries her dead calf for 'record' 17 days in 'tour of grief' captivating researchers

The whale, known as J35, is thought to have carried her dead calf for 1,000 miles – Center for Whale Research

Researchers say an endangered killer whale that drew international attention as she carried her dead calf on her head for more than two weeks is finally back to feeding and frolicking with her pod.

The Center for Whale Research in Washington state says it watched the orca, known as J35, chase a school of salmon in Haro Strait west of San Juan Island on Saturday afternoon.

The whales have been struggling because of a lack of salmon, and J35’s calf died soon after birth on July 24. The mother carried the baby on her head for at least 17 days, in an image of grief that struck an emotional chord worldwide.

She finally abandoned the carcass as it decomposed.

Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb says he is immensely relieved to see J35 returning to typical behaviour. 

Researchers say they are immensely relieved to see J35 returning to typical behaviour Credit: Center for Whale Research

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

It added: “The carcass has probably sunk to the bottom of these inland marine waters of the Salish Sea [between Canada and the US], and researchers may not get a chance to examine it for necropsy (autopsy of an animal).”

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