Column: Mother orca’s display of grief sends powerful message

The grief of this orca mother may not be visible anymore, but we must not forget.

The image of an orca mother pushing her dead calf through the ocean for 17 days is etched in the minds of many.

Raw, painful, heart-wrenching.

As she mourns the death of her child, other orcas in her family come to support her, taking turns holding up the body of her baby, honouring and holding space for her grief.

This is, according to those who study whales, a common ritual. But this recent embodiment of a mother’s pain apparently went on longer than usual. So long that, through technology, the whole world witnessed her grief – empathizing, puzzling, marvelling, questioning.

Observers wondered when she would stop. Would her grief kill her?

Some pundits could be heard discussing how this prolonged ritual was evidence of orcas’ ability to feel ‘human’ emotions. Evidence of how these mammals are highly ‘evolved.’

Others commented on the size of orcas’ brains, how intelligent they are – compared to humans.

Related: Killer whale pushing dead calf gets support from her pod

Related: Orca’s ‘tour of grief’ over after carrying dead calf around for nearly 3 weeks

One opinion – one that would align with what indigenous people have been living for millennia – struck home.

This orca was going to display her grief until humans would notice, really notice, what they are doing to the waters her baby was born in.

Notice how orcas have among the highest levels of pollution of marine mammals, their blubber laced with PCBs, pesticides and other chemical toxins. Notice how orcas can’t reproduce and ultimately survive in oceans that are home to sewage, chemicals, plastics, oil and more. Notice how malnutrition is becoming more common due to a decline in salmon. Notice how orcas, with complex dialects and echolocation, can’t forage and communicate properly in competition with vessel noise.

Notice how plans to continue down the path of oil – with its accompanying warmer oceans and inevitable spills – are deadly.

Notice how her babies, how human babies, how all living creatures are going to keep dying if humans don’t put the Earth at the centre of every single decision made.

The grief of this orca mother may not be visible anymore, but the image she etched in our collective psyche must remain if our collective life on this planet is to continue.

Martha Wickett is a reporter with the Salmon Arm Observer.


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Four teams left standing in fight for Surrey RCMP Classic basketball championship

School squads in all-Surrey tourney prep for Friday semifinals at Enver Creek gym

South Surrey woman mastering the stuff that matters

KonMari method, developed in Japan, draws on heart connection

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

Chiasson nets shootout winner as Oilers edge Canucks 3-2

Edmonton moves one point ahead of Vancouver

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Thieves steal thousands from 140 Coast Capital Savings members

Online fraud tactics included phising and ‘brute force’ in November and December

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Dog shot in foot with BB gun during cellphone sale at SkyTrain station

William Ayers, 28, is facing a number of charges after incident in Burnaby

Man, two children sent to hospital after Vancouver carbon monoxide leak

Nine people were evacuated from the home in south Vancouver

Most Read