On 25th of July, 20-year-old Tahlequah, an orca (killer) whale gave birth to the first baby of her pod since 2015.
But, the baby died soon after because it was born with too little fat to survive in the harsh cold.
Usually, in such situations, whales let the body sink to the floor of the ocean; but Tahlequah didn't.
She just wouldn't let go of the baby and carried the dead body on her head for 17 days.
During this time, Tahlequah travelled around 1000 miles with her pod.
As soon as the body would start sinking, she'd catch hold of it and at times even pushed it above the water surface to breathe.
This behaviour, although typical of orca mothers, started bothering marine biologists who were worried about the whale's physical and mental health.
Deborah Giles, a killer whale biologist from the University of Washington, told The Seattle Times:
Even if her family is foraging for and sharing fish with her. (She) cannot be getting the nutrition she needs to regain any body-mass loss that would have naturally occurred during the gestation of her fetus.
While further adding:
I am absolutely shocked and heartbroken. I can’t believe she is still carrying her calf around.
After 17 days, the whale has finally let go of the body now, evoking emotional responses from all over the world.
So touched by this, orca whales should never be in captivity, orca babies often live their entire lives with their mother,as of Feb 2018, at least 48 orcas have died at SeaWorld. Orcas have 2nd largest brain, sperm whales have the largest. Must have been hard for her to let go.— WTF💥 (@neveragainFL) August 13, 2018
Orca has let go of it’s dead calf after carrying it around on her head for two weeks according to @AP. This tugs at my heart strings. Nothing like a mother’s love. Poor thing...😔😢😔😢— Blake Mathews (@KHOUBlake11) August 12, 2018
Tahlequah, or J35, the orca mother who captured the world's heart carrying her dead calf for at least 17 days and more than 1,000 miles is no longer carrying the calf. She looks strong and well, and was swimming with her family of southern resident killer whales.— Lynda V. Mapes (@LyndaVMapes) August 12, 2018
She let her baby go. How long will you prolong her pain and haunt/baffle the world that watched and grieved with her? The Orca’s are starving to death. They are your #Washington constituents. Do something. Say something. It’s your job @GovInslee @SenatorCantwell #FreeTheSnake— Holly Marie Combs (@H_Combs) August 12, 2018