"J35's incredible persistence in diving deep to retrieve the small body, even in the face of her weakening condition, speaks to her great emotional distress," Barbara J. King, professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary and author of "How Animals Grieve," told The Dodo last week.
"Tahlequah kept the body at the surface, supporting it on her head or holding it in her mouth. Orcas and other cetacean species have been observed carrying their dead, but rarely longer than a day," Susan Casey wrote in a New York Times op-ed. "Tahlequah has been swimming with her daughter’s body through choppy seas for, as of Friday, 10 days and counting, on what social media observers and orca researchers call a 'tour of grief.' They’re right."
Her plight has also highlighted the grave dangers facing the southern resident killer whales, who have struggling to survive for years due to environmental changes, like the damming of rivers that cut off their food source of Chinook salmon. The population previously suffered losses in the 1970s, when SeaWorld and other marine parks took a generation of baby orcas for display in captivity.