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

NDP bring Green New Deal to the Kootenays

MPs Wayne Stetski and Peter Julian held climate change talks in Nelson, Cranbrook and Revelstoke

PLACE NAMES: Greenwood neighbourhoods

At least eight early townsite additions expanded the city’s footprint

Elk River reclaims property as its own

Laws make it harder to protect private land than ever before says farmer, local government

Smoke-free summer a boon for West Kootenay tourism

Tourism centres seeing numbers up

Saving lives on grocery list for Castlegar responders on Wednesday

Crews attended local supermarkets three times during the day

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Groups ready campaign to help young voters identify ‘fake news’ in election

The media literacy campaign to focus on identifying misinformation and suspicious sources online

Big rally in northern B.C. draws attention to continuing lumber crisis

Mayor Joan Atkinson says about 400 workers have been directly affected by the closure of the Canfor mill

Most Read