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The Orca Who Carried Her Dead Calf Over 1,000 Miles For 17 Days Is Pregnant Again

by Sarah Bregel
Sarah Bregel is an editor at LittleThings.com covering entertainment, trending stories, adorable stuff, parenting, and more. She is also a freelance writer, mom of two, dog mom, feminist, and deep-breather.

There is no doubt that animals love their babies. But sometimes, watching how human-like the actions of animal mothers are is simply stunning.

It makes us realize that a mother’s love exists for just about every species, in various forms.

A mother’s love is a truly powerful thing, and, at times, it’s beautiful and devastating to witness all at once. That much was true when one orca mother, dubbed Tahlequah, carried her dead calf for 17 days, across about 1,000 miles, before finally letting it go. The grieving mother wanted to hold onto her baby as long as possible. It was truly a miraculous sight.

The unbelievable incident took place back in 2018, but no one could forget the incredible sight that was captured on drone footage. The Puget Sound orca whale captured everyone’s hearts back then. But Tahlequah, also known as J35, is pregnant again, and now our hearts are that much more full.

Tahlequah, also known as J35, gave birth two years ago. But her baby didn’t live more than 30 minutes. It was devastating for the mother whale, so much that she couldn’t let go of her calf for 17 days.

Tahlequah and her pod live in the Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest. The birth of the calf was exciting because the group of orcas was listed as endangered in 2005. At the time of the calf’s birth, it was the first baby orca for her pod in three years.

The orcas make up three different pods, which researchers have dubbed J, K, and L. Tahlequah’s loss was felt around the world. Of course, no one felt it more deeply than her. Like any grieving mother, she clearly had a hard time letting go. The incredible footage made major waves around the internet. Any mother who has lost a child felt a kind of kinship with the whale.

Scientists have been monitoring the pod and, using drone imaging, recently discovered that Tahlequah is pregnant once again, the Seattle Times reported. They captured an image of the whale this month and compared it to one taken last month. And it’s easy to see Tahlequah’s change in size!

Still, we don’t know what will happen with the pregnancy. According to a University of Washington study, about a third of the pregnancies among this group of whales don’t last. Of course, all of our fingers and toes are crossed that this mama will have a healthy calf this time around.

There are a lot of reasons why the whales are endangered, according to the study. Their main food source is Chinook salmon, which are also endangered. Of course, pollution and climate change also play a role in marine life becoming endangered, but there’s still hope.

Every new orca pregnancy renews that hope a bit more. Last May, another whale among this particular population gave birth to a healthy calf. Now, hopefully, another one will follow with the new and exciting discovery of Tahlequah’s pregnancy!

There’s no doubt that experts will be watching closely to find out what happens in the coming months. But they aren’t the only ones! This is one orca who has truly captured hearts across the globe.

People are rooting Tahlequah on and hoping for the best, and no one is happier for the expecting mama whale than human moms everywhere.