orca whale

The last few weeks around here, we have been focussed on the algae bloom called red tide.  This one has stuck around Southwest Florida longer than usual and it’s killing fish and wildlife.  It’s deadly.  It stinks.  It’s destroying tourism.  It’s bad.  Really bad.

What hasn’t received as much attention is something that is going on across the country off Puget Sound, Washington. The mother orca, named Tahlequa, or J35, and her refusal to let go of her dead calf.  The baby girl was born on July 24, and lived just thirty minutes.  Orcas usually grieve for a day and let go.  Tahlequah has been at it for more than ten days.  She has carried that baby with her for days now.  There is a fascinating piece in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times by Susan Casey  Read it if you can.  I posted a link below.

First of all, it breaks your heart.  This 20-year-old female orca that will not let her dead female calf go.  It’s being called a “tour of grief.”  Then, you start learning about these amazing creatures.  They are smart.  Really smart.  Certainly smarter than I am. Big brained.   Their sense of family is far greater than mine too.  They live in families.  They stay together.  They pass on knowledge to their young.  Then, there is the part of the story that really gets to you.  Our big brains have so screwed up their environment that orcas are struggling to survive.  They have not had a successful birth in three years.

Susan Casey writes about our sadness for this grieving mom.  She also writes about how we should turn our empathy into action to try and save them.  When we think or orcas, we think of killer whales.  I’ll admit, I was once thrilled to see a killer whale jump out of the water and do tricks.  I’m way beyond that now.  Today,  I do have some guilt that I helped that along.  I need to turn that guilt into something productive.


One thought on “An Orca Named Tahlequah or J35”
  1. Beautifully written essay. It is very sad, and it is also a warning to us all. Mankind has created the red tide and also polluted our seas. It is affecting wildlife and thus the balance of nature. The great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of Texas, is another clear warning. Journalists like yourself are one solution (broadcasting these warning signs and keeping us aware of the dangers.) But we must also support any and all legislation that will stop the pollution of our rivers, lakes, oceans and streams. Banning plastic straws is just a token and relatively meaningless action. We need to stop dumping sewage and industrial waste into our waterways, stop using plastic bags and plastic packaging, and increase the waste material recycling capabilities of every municipality. And we personally need to make our political representatives aware that we support such legislation. Keep up the good work.

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