Two years ago, the world followed the story of J35, a female killer whale named Tahlequah, who tragically lost her newborn calf. In a "tour of grief," she pushed the deceased baby along, refusing to let them sink, for 17 days and nearly 1000 miles. It was a moving testament to the love of a mother and baby, and a jarring statement on the critical endangerment of the Southern Resident Killer Whale group.
First, the good news: Tahlequah appears to be pregnant again. This is her third known calf: she gave birth to a male in 2010, and a female infamously in 2018. Researchers have documented her growing belly, and will monitor her and any other expectant whale mothers closely for the remainder of their pregnancies, which can be 17-18 months.
The less happy news is that the Southern Resident killer whale population is dwindling. Only 73 individuals remain, and pregnancy has been difficult for the group. Every pregnancy in the last 3 years has had a negative outcome, likely due to nutritional deficiencies. It's important to recognoze what a big win Tahlequah's new baby could be, without diminishing the importance of preserving the native environment of the whales, and protecting the populations of fish that feed the group.
Good luck, Tahlequah!