When This Orca’s Newborn Calf Died Shortly After Birth, She Chose To Grieve In An Unprecedented Way

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Image: Ken Balcomb via Center for Whale Research / Dave Ellifrit via Center for Whale Research
Image: Ken Balcomb via Center for Whale Research / Dave Ellifrit via Center for Whale Research

Tahlequah the orca is part of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) group. As such, she’s potentially playing a vital role in bringing her species back from the brink of extinction. But when she lost a calf, the whale appeared to express her grief in an unprecedented way – and her response seems to have broken hearts everywhere.

Image: Instagram/centerforwhaleresearch
Image: Instagram/centerforwhaleresearch

Twenty-year-old Tahlequah is one of 74 orcas that make up the SRKW community. This group of whales, who live in the North American Pacific Ocean, have been closely monitored by the Center for Whale Research (CWR) for more than 40 years. And consequently we now know much more about these creatures and their behavior.

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Image: Center for Whale Research
Image: Center for Whale Research

The CWR has, in fact, helped develop a non-invasive way of identifying particular whales. You see, the nonprofit organization discovered that orcas have an area on their backs that’s usually a different color to the rest of their body. This is known as a saddle patch and is unique to each animal.

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