An orca who tugged heartstrings two years ago when she carried her dead calf 1,000 miles through the ocean over 17 days is now pregnant again.
The killer whale, dubbed Tahlequah by scientists, was spotted via research drones that were surveying her pod, The Seattle Times reported Monday.
There are actually three pregnancies, in the J, K and L pods. John Durban, senior scientist of Southall Environmental Associates, and Holly Fearnbach, marine mammal research director for the nonprofit SR3, are conducting a long-term study of the bodily health of Puget Sound orcas known as the southern residents, The Seattle Times explained.
Tahlequah is part of the endangered J Pod, according to National Geographic.
And it’s a lack of food – specifically, Chinook salmon – that is the major contributing factor, according to the Center for Whale Research in National Geographic.
The current population of the southern resident orcas is 72.
To gestate freely, the orcas will need peace and quiet during their 18-month pregnancy, The Seattle Times reported. Fearnbach and Durban said boaters can help by respecting the majestic marine mammals’ space and their need for quiet. That means slowing down and not getting too close.
After her last pregnancy, Tahlequah had a mere half-hour to bond with her newborn before it perished. The grief-stricken mother then pushed the calf through the water for more than two weeks, and the region sorrowed along with her, The Seattle Times said.
The grieving was normal but the length of time was “unprecedented,” Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb told CNN in 2018. By the time she let her baby’s corpse fall to the bottom of the Salish Sea, it had begun to decompose, he told CNN.