B.C. orca whale receiving help from pod in second week keeping deceased calf afloat

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      For more than a week now, a female orca whale has refused to let her deceased calf go.

      The mother, a member of an endangered population living in B.C. and Washington state waters, has kept the baby afloat since it died shortly after its birth on July 24.

      Now CBC News is reporting that other members of her pod have joined her and are taking turns balancing the calf's body on the front of their bodies, working together to keep it afloat.

      "We do know her family is sharing the responsibility of caring for this calf, that she's not always the one carrying it, that they seem to take turns," Whale Museum on San Juan Island director Jenny Atkinson told CBC's As It Happens. That report includes audio of the pod that's carrying the calf communicating with one another.

      An earlier CBC News report quotes Ken Balcomb, a senior scientist with the Centre for Whale Research in Washington State, explaining that the animals likely are aware the calf is dead.

      "That's a mother's first response is to get the baby to the surface to get air," he said.

      "She spent the first half-hour probably with a calf she hoped to revive," Balcomb continued. "And now she's spent [four] days pushing the carcass around. I'm sure that she's aware that it's deceased, and it may be some sort of ritual. She's reluctant to leave her baby."

      The mother whale, which scientists previously named J-35, and her pod were last spotted with the deceased infant near San Juan Island, Washington state.

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