Southern Resident Orcas Celebrate Talequah’s New Calf
In this difficult, challenging time for all species on our Earth, it’s important to celebrate the joy and beauty that continues to unfold, even in the face of great hardship.
Earlier this month, Talequah (J35), of the Southern Resident population of orcas (killer whales) in the Pacific Northwest of North America, gave birth to a new calf, J57.
Read the Center for Whale Research press release here: J35’s New Calf J57
Talequah made world news in the summer of 2018 when she carried her dead calf on her head for 17 days while the pod traveled about 1,000 miles around the Salish Sea on what was termed a “Tour of Grief.” I wrote about this heartbreaking loss in the post: An Orca Mother Grieves: Talequah and Her Calf.
The loss of Talequah’s calf, her grief, and the clear grieving and loss rituals of her pod, brought the world’s attention to the tremendous difficulties these whales are facing as they struggle to find enough food (Chinook salmon), which has been severely impacted by the human-created dams on the rivers where the salmon spawn.
On September 5, 2020, a day after the presumed birthday of Talequah’s new calf, senior researcher and Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb, and Lodie Gilbert Budwill, Community Relations Coordinator, captured this extraordinary footage of a legendary superpod of Southern Resident Orcas…a gathering of several pods.
The CWR newsletter post shared:
Water conditions were calm, and J35 had just had her calf, J57, when the rest of J, K, and L pods arrived to celebrate its birth. To top off this memorable day, many whales escorted Ken and Lodie partway home. It was an encounter of a lifetime.
My tears flowed I read this post and watched the video. As you watch this amazing video footage; feel the connection, the joy, the exuberance, the celebration, and the awareness of the whales of their human advocates and friends.
Read more about this encounter in the post: Legendary Superpod: A rare close-up Superpod with CWR’s Ken Balcomb.
In watching this video, a few things stood out for me so clearly:
Talequah continues to live, to mate, and was able to bring a new calf into the world.
Though the stressors on the Southern Resident Orcas are immense, and Talequah’s grief and the grief of her pod was obvious, and huge, her strong life force, her vibrant spirit, enabled her to mate, to conceive, and to give birth to a calf who, at this time, looks healthy and strong.
The gathering of the superpod of J, K, and L populations to celebrate this birth is obvious. Their joy at the birth of this young calf is palpable, and noticed and honored by the humans who have devoted their lives to studying them and advocating for them.
The awareness, connection, and communication with Ken Balcomb, who has done more for this population of whales than any other human, is so beautiful and so touching. The whales know him, and he them, and this gathering, this celebration, this outpouring of connection, shared with him, is moving beyond words.
It’s important to recognize that this birth is a possibility, but that these whales still face enormous stress. There is a 40% mortality rate in this population for young calves.
As I wrote in 2018,
What is being asked of us, by the orcas, and so many others of our non-human wise ones and elders, is to grow up and show up: for them, for ourselves, for our planet. To sit with them in council, to allow them, as our elders, our evolutionary leaders, to teach us…to guide us…to show us another way. This isn’t easy, and it’s not as simple as many new age pundits would have us believe. We are being asked to do the hard soul work…of being present with suffering, our own, and theirs…with pain, with the destruction of our planetary home…of recognizing the sacredness and the sentience of all life, not just human life…and of humbly listening, learning, and seeing.
As I connect with Talequah now, after the birth of her new calf, I feel her maturity, her wisdom, her deep awareness. Her depth of understanding and presence is palpable; her energy deep and clear. The love, the connection, with this new baby, is profound, as is her awareness of the struggles of her family.
And, there is joy. Celebration. Deep connection, and love.
Please join with me in offering prayers and blessings for protection, health, safety for this calf, her mother, and her orca family. If you’re inspired, there are many actions that we can take to support these whales. The Southern Resident Orcas and their human advocates need all the support they can get: financial, advocacy, raising awareness. If you’re able to, please help to support the extraordinary conservation and research efforts of the Center for Whale Research.