An artist local to Washington State has made waves on social media after sharing a watercolour painting portraying the grieving mother orca J35.
J35, nicknamed Tahlequah, pushed her calf’s body around the coast of Vancouver Island for 17 days after it died shortly after being born on July 24.
Christopher’s painting See Me shows Tahlequah holding her calf above the water, while other whales in the pod look on.
Christopher, who lives on Hat Island north of Seattle, told CBC News that the painting was meant to reflect the whale’s grief.
“Her grief was so visceral … and had gone on for so many days that it was more of a cry out for help,” she said.
“When she’s raising it above the water it becomes clear that she’s grieving and she needs help. They all need help.”
Since posting the painting on Facebook two weeks ago, See Me has been shared over 11,000 times.
Christopher is now selling the painting in print form on her Etsy store.
Whale’s plight captured nation’s attention
Due to its unprecedented length, Tahlequah’s “tour of grief” captured the attention of concerned citizens across Canada, and the world.
Southern resident killer whales are on the brink of extinction as none of their pregnancies in the past three years have produced viable offspring.
Dwindling numbers of Chinook salmon—the whale’s main food source—and increased ship traffic and toxins have also been put forward as factors behind the species’ endangerment.
While biologists are happy to see that Tahlequah has stopped carrying her calf, attention is now being focused on another member of her pod, J50.