VICTORIA, British Columbia (FOX 13) - The Center for Whale Research in Washington state recently released photos of an orca apparently grieving the loss of its newborn calf that died hours after birth.
The mother killer whale, called J35 by researchers, was seen five days after the birth pushing the calf's carcass in the water off Canada.
The Center for Whale Research said the calf was born near Victoria, British Columbia July 24.
In a press release, the center described the events after the calf's death.
"The baby’s carcass was sinking and being repeatedly retrieved by the mother who was supporting it on her forehead and pushing it in choppy seas toward San Juan Island, USA. The mother continued supporting and pushing the dead baby whale throughout the day until at least sunset."
The heartbreaking photos have put a spotlight on the declining Southern Resident killer whale (orca) population.
The Center for Whale Research says about 75 percent of newborn orcas in the last 20 years have not survived.
None have survived in the last three years.
Killer whales and dolphins have been known to support and transport their dead calves for as long as a week, according to the Center for Whale Research.
Southern Resident killer whales are considered endangered. The Department of Commerce, NOAA Fisheries, has designated them as a “Species in the Spotlight” due to the imminent threat of extinction.
The Center for Whale Research says their inability to reproduce and declining population are a result of lack of food, specifically Chinook salmon, which are also endangered.
To learn more from the Center for Whale Research, visit whaleresearch.com.