Orca That Carried Her Dead Calf For Record-Setting 17 Days Finally Lets It Go

The orcas' story isn't over: they still face extinction in the long term. Monika Wiedland Shields/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 13 Aug 2018, 12:58

This is the primary driver of the population decline and reproductive failure of the population. If nothing is done to ensure the population of this wild salmon bounces back, then these orcas are destined to be wiped out.

J35’s prolonged funereal behavior certainly managed to capture the world’s attention, but cetacean experts have been acutely aware for some time now that this particular extended family is endangered. Her tale is one segment of a far larger story that looks increasingly certain to have a distressing ending.

There should be around 300 of these orcas, but currently, there are just 75. Since 2015, not a single pregnancy has been successful, and in the last 20 years alone, around three in four newborns have not survived.

That’s why attention is not only on J35 – a breeding-age orca necessary for the pod’s survival – but on the entire population. The current focus is on J50, a young orca who’s in a sorry state of health.


J50’s showing signs of emaciation, while also appearing to be generally lethargic. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries site, her poor condition indicates that she “may not survive”.

As of August 9, she was keeping up with her mother, J16, despite being very small, skinny, and weak. Vancouver Aquarium’s veterinarian team has also obtained breath samples that will allow them to see if she has an infection; just in case, they have already administered antibiotics to her via a dart.

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