An Endangered Whale Clings to Her Dead Calf Weeks After She Died

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A female orca that appears to be grieving has been carrying her dead calf in the water, keeping it afloat since the baby died weeks ago. (Center for Whale Research)

A female killer whale is still clinging to her dead calf more than two weeks after her newborn died.

The endangered orca, given the name Tahlequah, gave birth on July 24 and the calf died shortly afterward.

The mother has been keeping its body afloat ever since.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries, says researchers on Wednesday spotted the 20-year-old whale known as J35 carrying her dead young off the tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

The image of the mother whale clinging to the dead calf has struck an emotional chord worldwide.

Milstein says researchers with Fisheries and Ocean Canada also spotted another member of the same pod — the 3 ½-year old whale J50 that is emaciated. The ailing orca was swimming with her mom Wednesday.

A team of experts led by NOAA Fisheries have been searching for the young whale to assess her health and potentially give her medication.

Biologists are ready to feed the malnourished whale fresh salmon along with antibiotics to treat an infection.

NPR contributed to this report. See here for more of NPR's coverage on the endangered orcas.