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

Man stabbed in Fleetwood overnight

Police were on scene in the 15200-block of Fraser Highway shortly after midnight

Surrey Community Leader Awards winners revealed

The 16th CLA awards, presented by the Now-Leader, recognized Surrey’s un-sung heroes

Police dog helps apprehend ‘prolific’ property crime offender near Surrey, Langley border

Douglas Holmes, 47, has been charged with break and enter of a business on the Langley Bypass

North Delta teen dancer to make her debut on the world stage

Emma McQuarrie will be competing in Portugal this June for the Dance World Cup

White Rock-South Surrey Titans prep for football provincials

Association’s midget team to play in B.C. final Sunday in Kamloops

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Drug-related deaths double for B.C. youth in care, advocate says

Teens say positive connections with adults key to recovery

Children’s strawberry-flavoured medicines recalled due to faulty safety cap

Three different acetaminophen syrups part of nationwide recall

Around the BCHL: Junior A cities to host World Junior tuneup games

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the league and around the junior A world.

International students hit hard by B.C. tuition fee hikes

Campaign seeks regulatory controls be imposed on post-secondary institutions

Trudeau pushes for more Saudi accountability in Khashoggi killing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is still seeking clear answers from Saudi Arabia about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi

School bullying video shows how people with disabilities are devalued: advocates

Brett Corbett, who has cerebral palsy, is seen in a video being stepped while lying in water

CFL will use extra on-field official to watch for illegal blows to quarterback

If the extra official sees an illegal blow that has not already been flagged, they will advise the head referee, who can then assess a penalty for roughing the passer

Older B.C. drivers subsidizing younger ones, study finds

ICBC protects higher-risk drivers, pays for testing costs

Most Read