The southern resident killer whale that broke hearts around the globe when she carried her dead calf for 17 days has given birth again.
A member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association spotted orca J35, a 22-year-old member of JPod known by the nickname Talequah, on Saturday.
“We first saw J35 and her son J47 off by themselves away from the main group, then as we watched we quickly realized that there was a very small fin tucked in next to them,” said Sarah McCullagh, a naturalist and captain with San Juan Safaris in a statement.
“I was obviously elated, so excited for J35 after the incredible loss she suffered a couple of years ago, but also for the Southern Resident community as a whole. I definitely cried.”
Non-profit group the Centre for Whale Research has confirmed the birth, and said the new calf — dubbed J57 — appears “happy and precocious” and was “swimming vigorously alongside its mother in its second day of free-swimming life.”
“We hope this calf is a success story,” wrote the group on its website. “Regrettably, with the whales having so much nutritional distress in recent years, a large percentage of pregnancies fail and there is about 40 per cent mortality for calves.”
Southern resident killer whales remain critically endangered, and scientists believe a lack of Chinook salmon, their main food source, along with marine noise and environmental pollution are all contributing factors.
Even with the birth of J57, there remain just 73 orcas in the group.
J35 made international headlines in 2018 when her last calf died shortly after birth. She then carried the young whale’s carcass with her for more than two weeks and 1,500 kilometres.