An endangered orca's "tour of grief" is over after she spent almost three weeks towing her dead calf around the Pacific Ocean, researchers said Sunday.
"The ordeal of J35 carrying her dead calf for at least seventeen days and [1600km] is now over, thank goodness", researcher Ken Balcomb said on Twitter.
Yesterday, the mother, J35, was spotted vigorously chasing a school of salmon with her pod-mates in mid-Haro Strait in front of the centre.
Greenpeace USA Field Organizing Manager Ben Smith said in a statement: "Tahlequah united millions of people worldwide in heartbreak and love as she carried her dead calf for 1,000 miles".
Deborah Giles, a research scientist and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca, said watching the orca with her calf was emotionally draining.
"Her tour of grief is now over and her behavior is remarkably frisky". She is no longer carrying her baby, and she looks healthy.
In the past two decades, 75 per cent of newborn calves have died, according to the CWR, which attributes the low reproduction rate to declining numbers of Chinook salmon, the staple diet of the killer whales. For although killer whales and dolphins have been known to exhibit this behaviour, it usually only lasts up to a week.
That whale - J50, also known as Scarlet - had been shot with antibiotics to fight an infection and had been losing a lot of weight.
"She literally is pushing her baby to connect with it and, hope against hope - hoping that it will take a breath, which it will never do", biologist and wildlife conservationist Jeff Corwin told CBSN last week. They must learn to swim right away, Balcomb said, and rely on their mothers for food for several years - first through nursing, then through providing fish.
"J35, the mom, seems to be doing well, very energetic and travelling with her family members", he said in an e-mail. But the bonds between mothers and calves are extremely strong.