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Tahlequah, 'Tour of Grief' killer whale, gives birth

(Reuters) - An endangered killer whale named “Tahlequah,” which famously carried her dead calf on her head in mourning for 17 days through the Salish Sea off British Columbia in 2018, is a new mother.

Tahlequah, known to scientists as “J35,” gave birth likely on Friday after it was spotted in the Haro Strait, northwest of Seattle, earlier in the week, the Center for Whale Research in the state of Washington said in a statement.

“Hooray! Her new calf appeared healthy and precocious, swimming vigorously alongside its mother in its second day of free-swimming life,” the center said.

The center did not release the gender of the new calf. It said that when Tahlequah was spotted she was mostly separate from the other whales and “very evasive” as she crossed the border into Canada.

“So we ended our encounter with her after a few minutes and wished them well on their way,” the center said. “We hope this calf is a success story.”

Tahlequah made headlines for her “Tour of Grief” in the summer of 2018 when she carried her dead calf on her head for 17 days while she swam about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) around the Salish Sea.

Nutritional stress in recent years is to blame for a large percentage of whale pregnancies failing and a 40% mortality rate for young calves, the center said.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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