About a week ago, an orca named J35 had a calf but died about 30 minutes after being born. Now almost a week later, the j35 can still be seeing balancing her deceased baby on her snout as she carries it with her through waters off the state of Washington.
Orca, which are the largest dolphin species and actually not a whale, are some of the most intelligent and beautiful animals on the the planet. They are some of the most sought after creatures to view in their natural habitat due to their fearsome predatorial ability as well as their ability to dance through water with their natural beauty.
It has been found that Orca’s suffer grief, which can be defined as emotional distress paired with a clear change in usual behavior according to an anthropologist that spoke to National Geographic. Now, with new evidence collected from examples such as what is occurring off the coast of Washington, it appears that Orca’s also mourn their dead. A 2016 study actually took a look at this behavior and they technically refer to it as “nurturant behavior toward dead conspecifics.
Observational evidence described in the study suggests that, based on 14 incidences spread across three oceans, at least seven toothed cetaceans engage in similar mourning practices: the carrying of a dead calf for a prolonged period of time. These include orcas, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, Australian humpback dolphins, sperm whales, Risso’s dolphins, and short-finned pilot whales.
Multiple theories exist why this behavior exists in cetaceans but one of the most grim theories explain that it is a form of play rather than care but researchers believe that this takes place very infrequently and most behavior observed is associated to a grieving process.
Aside from the death of her calf, J35 appears health and should be okay.