Science • Animals

Orca whale, who carried her dead calf for 17 days, is pregnant again

Orca whale, who carried her dead calf for 17 days, is pregnant again
The picture panel above shows her shape change between September 2019, when she was several months into pregnancy, and recently in July 2020 when her increased width at mid body clearly indicates she is in the late stages of pregnancy. Pregnancy in killer whales typically lasts 17-18 months. Photos by SR3 and NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in 2019 and SR3 and SEA in 2020, collected under NMFS research permit 19091. Credit: SR3 (Reproduction)

The orca whale known as Tahlequah, who carried her dead calf for 17 days and over 1,000 miles two years ago, is pregnant again. The pregnancy was discovered by John Durban, senior scientist of Southall Environmental Associates, and marine mammal research director Holly Fearnbach of the non-profit organisation SR3, who captured drone images of a community of 72 Southern Resident killer whales. The whale community, which is made up of three pods of whales, is frequently seen in the southern end of Vancouver Island and the marine waters of Washington state. Further pregnancies were spotted in all three pods.

Though pregnancies among orca whales are not unusual, Tahlequah's first pregnancy was believed to be the first in about three years among this whale community. Two of the Southern Resident whales have given birth since.

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