Two years ago, the world watched a mother orca carrying her stillborn calf aloft in the water through the Salish Sea off British Columbia for 17 days. The endangered killer whale named 'Tahlequah' has given birth to a healthy baby.
Tahlequah, known to scientists as “J35,” gave birth likely on Friday after it was spotted in the Haro Strait, northwest of Seattle, earlier in the week, the Center for Whale Research in the state of Washington said in a statement.
"Hooray! Her new calf appeared healthy and precocious, swimming vigorously alongside its mother in its second day of free-swimming life," the center said. The center did not release the gender of the new calf. It said that when Tahlequah was spotted she was mostly separate from the other whales and “very evasive” as she crossed the border into Canada.
"So we ended our encounter with her after a few minutes and wished them well on their way," the center said.
Tahlequah made headlines for her “Tour of Grief” in the summer of 2018 when she carried her dead calf on her head for 17 days while she swam about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) around the Salish Sea.
Nutritional stress in recent years is to blame for a large percentage of whale pregnancies failing and a 40% mortality rate for young calves, the center said.
Recently, SR3, a non-profit dedicated to improving marine wildlife health and welfare, while announcing the pregnancy of Tahlequah also revealed through drone photos that several pregnant killer whales that have been identified by researchers since early July.
According to SR3, the orca population is a broad blended family consisting of three social classes, or pods, with orcas come from each pod. Nonetheless, it is uncertain exactly how many.
Due to their endangered status, the pregnancy boom among this population may seem like a hopeful prospect. But scientists at SR3 say it is nothing unusual and noted that many southern resident pregnancies have resulted in unsuccessful births due to poor nutrition linked to a lack of prey.
"Studies by our colleagues at the University of Washington have shown that these reproductive failures are linked to nutrition and access to their Chinook salmon prey," the online release by SR3 said. "So, we hope folks on the water can give the Southern Residents plenty of space to forage at this important time."
SR3 shared photos online of J35 and L72, another pregnant orca. The aerial images of both orcas show their body sizes in September, when they were several months into their pregnancies, and recently in July, with an increased width mid-body, revealing that they're in their final stages.
"We hope this calf is a success story," the note further read. All of us are hoping for the same.
With inputs from Reuters