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Orca That Grieved With Dead Calf For 17 Days And 1,000 Miles Is Pregnant Again

While the internet can be a very alienating place, it can also show us the most inspiring examples of how much people care. And while it can certainly be hard to predict what everyone will suddenly become interested in, some stories are just powerful enough to deeply effect anyone who hears them.

Two years ago, one of those stories concerned a whale that showed both its incredible devotion and heartbreaking grief in the way it reacted to the death of its calf.

But thanks to some recent drone photos from researchers, those who shed tears for the orca have much more hopeful news on the horizon.

In late July of 2018, Tahlequah the orca gave birth to a calf that only lived for a few hours.

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As CNN reported, Tahlequah nonetheless stayed by the calf and nudged it along for 17 days as a means of preventing it from sinking.

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This sad journey went on for 1,000 miles and approached the Pacific coast of Canada and the northwestern United States.

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As Greenpeace USA Field Organizing Manager Ben Smith told CNN, this is a sadly common plight for southern resident orcas, who hadn't had a successful birth in three years up to that point.

For Smith, the reason for this comes down to the depletion of local salmon, the orcas' main food source.

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After those 17 days, Tahlequah ended her "tour of grief" and was seen chasing a school of salmon with other members of her pod.

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Although southern resident orcas still struggle in much of the same way they did in 2018, The Seattle Times reported that two calves have since been born among them and remain alive today.

Unfortunately, the southern resident population frequenting the Puget Sound area are nonetheless down to just 72 whales, so every birth counts here.

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In recent times, researchers have been recording these orcas using drones flying over 100 feet above them.

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And as The Seattle times reported, the researchers noted over the course of this observation that Tahlequah was pregnant again.

However, it will likely be a long time before she meets her baby as pregnancies in orcas like her tend to last for about 18 months.

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And in the interest of ensuring this baby has as much of a chance as possible, scientists John Durban and Holly Fearnbach are asking boaters to respect the whales' space and ensure they have peace and quiet.

This is because the noise from boats is just as harmful to the orcas as the depleted salmon stocks because they use sound to hunt. Unfortunately, the area west of San Juan Island is a busy area for commercial ships and fishing and that's exactly where they're the most likely to hunt.

With this in mind, it becomes easier to understand why the odds are against Tahlequah, who lost a calf after a half-hour of life before the one she birthed two years ago. This follows an unfortunate trend in southern resident orcas, who lose two-thirds of their pregnancies on average.

h/t: The Seattle Times, CNN

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