Congratulations are in order for Tahlequah, a Puget Sound orca, who is expecting a little squirt two years after capturing the world’s attention with a heartbreaking story of loss and motherhood.
In the summer of 2018 Tahlequah gave birth to the first offspring her pod had seen in three years, but sadly the baby died a short time later. Images showed the mourning mom pushing her dead calf through the Pacific Ocean for 17 days, over 1,000 miles—a chilling and relatable scene that left the world blubbering. But now it seems like everything whale be okay, because she’s officially pregnant again!
“We are saddened to report that a baby Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) died a short time after it was born near Victoria, British Columbia on July 24, 2018,” the Center for Whale Research posted to their Instagram at the time. The newborn whale was reported alive and swimming with its mother, J35, and other members of J pod near Clover Point on the Victoria shoreline in mid-morning.”
Tahlequah is one of the Southern Resident killer whales that live in the Puget Sound, a group that was listed as endangered in 2005.
Orcas face grave threats to their survival, including dwindling food supply, pollution and climate change according to the National Wildlife Federation. The promise of another baby is huge for the three pods of the Southern Resident killer whales, dubbed J, K, and L by researchers. The mammal only gives birth three to five times in a lifetime, so another offspring could mean the future of the species.
John Durban, senior scientist at Southall Environmental Associates, and Holly Fearnbach, marine mammal research director for the nonprofit SR3, recorded drone images of J, K, and L and discovered several pregnancies within the pods.
In the drone photo, Tahlequah’s middle section appears larger compared to an image from September 2019. She’s showing! Orca gestation period is 15 to 18 months, and only one in three pregnancies produce a healthy calf.
We’re hoping this time, Tahlequah and her little baby swim off into the sunset together.