Female orcas surrounded this grieving mom in a heartbreaking circle of solidarity.

Parents everywhere are empathizing with this orca mom grieving the loss of its newborn.

The orca's baby died about 30 minutes after it was born in Puget Sound, off the coast of Washington state, but the mother had a hard time letting go. For three days, whale researchers observed her carrying the calf's body, carefully balancing it on her head as she swam. Even through rough waters, when the baby slipped and started to fall, the grieving mama, known to researchers as J35, dived deep to lift it back up again.

“It is horrible. This is an animal that is a sentient being. It understands the social bonds that it has with the rest...


Posted by Orca Conservancy on Wednesday, July 25, 2018

This behavior is a well-documented expression of grief among whales and dolphins, but that doesn't make it less devastating. "It is just absolutely gut-wrenching to watch," said Taylor Shedd of Soundwatch — a program that monitors whale-watching vessels and educates boaters to reduce disturbance to marine life — in The Seattle Times.

To see such grief in any species grabs us right in the heart; many people can understand the unwillingness of a parent to let go of a child they have lost.

But what was most touching was the beautiful way the orca mom's pod responded to the baby's death.

Orcas live in pods of up to 40 members who help one another hunt and care for young. Lodie Budwill of the Center for Whale Research observed J35 and her pod the day her baby died. She said a group of female orcas gathered in a tight circle with J35 and remained in that formation for at least two hours. She described the scene for the Times:

"It was beautiful to observe, yet very sad knowing what had taken place earlier in the day. The sun set, the moon rose and they remained centered in the moonbeam, continuing their circular surfacing. I perceived this to be a ceremony or ritual of some sort. It was no doubt a circle of family love and devotion. After observing for hours, it was hard to hold my binoculars up any longer."

That stunning display is strikingly similar to the way loved ones often react when a human parent loses a child — encircling them with shared grief, solidarity, and support.

Our empathy for these creatures should push us to help save them.

People's strong emotional reactions to J35's grief shows how connected we are, even with animals who are physically different from us in almost every way. Despite our vastly different existences, we can see ourselves or people we know reflected in this orca mom's story. But it's not just J35 who needs our help.

Southern resident orcas in the Puget Sound are critically endangered. While orca pods traditionally see four or five births per year, this baby was the first born in three years to this particular pod. Not only was it a loss for J35, it was a loss for the entire orca species in this area.

It's almost as though J35 held her baby up for days as a warning, saying, "Look at what is happening to us. Do something, please."

Here's how we can help.

Orcas are one of the most contaminated marine mammals because they consume the pollutants built up in animals and organisms below them in the food chain. Pushing for legislation that limits chemicals, pesticides, and other contaminants from flowing into the ocean is one actionable step, along with reducing physical pollutants such as plastics.

Puget Sound whales are also suffering from dwindling numbers of their main food, big Chinook salmon, which are also endangered. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order in May 2018 to come up with solutions for both species.

But the task is daunting and more research is needed. There are multiple organizations dedicated to orca research and conservation. Financially supporting those organizations, such as the Center for Whale Research and the Orca Conservancy, can be an effective way for ordinary people to make a real difference for these majestic creatures.

Wear your values with products from PSA Supply Co., an independent site owned by our parent company, GOOD Worldwide Inc. GOOD makes money when you buy these products, and 10% of profits go to The Center for Community Change Action. Use discount code UPWORTHY to get 15% off your first order!
Most Shared
Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

If you're a woman and you want to be a CEO, you should probably think about changing your name to "Jeffrey" or "Michael." Or possibly even "Michael Jeffreys" or "Jeffrey Michaels."

According to Fortune, last year, more men named Jeffrey and Michael became CEOs of America's top companies than women. A whopping total of one woman became a CEO, while two men named Jeffrey took the title, and two men named Michael moved into the C-suite as well.

The "New CEO Report" for 2018, which looks at new CEOS for the 250 largest S&P 500 companies, found that 23 people were appointed to the position of CEO. Only one of those 23 people was a woman. Michelle Gass, the new CEO of Kohl's, was the lone female on the list.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Netflix

How much of what we do is influenced by what we see on TV? When it comes to risky behavior, Netflix isn't taking any chances.

After receiving a lot of heat, the streaming platform is finally removing a controversial scenedepicting teen suicide in season one of "13 Reasons Why. The decision comes two years after the show's release after statistics reveal an uptick in teen suicide.

"As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we've been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we've decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from season one," Netflix said in a statement, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

At Trump's 'Social Media Summit' on Thursday, he bizarrely claimed Arnold Schwarzenegger had 'died' and he had witnessed said death. Wait, what?!


He didn't mean it literally - thank God. You can't be too sure! After all, he seemed to think that Frederick Douglass was still alive in February. More recently, he described a world in which the 1770s included airports. His laissez-faire approach to chronology is confusing, to say the least.

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy

Words matter. And they especially matter when we are talking about the safety and well-being of children.

While the #MeToo movement has shed light on sexual assault allegations that have long been swept under the rug, it has also brought to the forefront the language we use when discussing such cases. As a writer, I appreciate the importance of using varied wording, but it's vital we try to remain as accurate as possible in how we describe things.

There can be gray area in some topics, but some phrases being published by the media regarding sexual predation are not gray and need to be nixed completely—not only because they dilute the severity of the crime, but because they are simply inaccurate by definition.

One such phrase is "non-consensual sex with a minor." First of all, non-consensual sex is "rape" no matter who is involved. Second of all, most minors legally cannot consent to sex (the age of consent in the U.S. ranges by state from 16 to 18), so sex with a minor is almost always non-consensual by definition. Call it what it is—child rape or statutory rape, depending on circumstances—not "non-consensual sex."

Keep Reading Show less
Culture