The death of Tahlequah’s calf | Guest column

  • Tue Apr 16th, 2019 9:37am
  • News

By Maddie and Grace Zoerb

Loving mothers would never let their babies eat things which would make them sick, yet every year, humans allow poison from their garbage enter the ocean and affects the lives of the orca whales, marine animals and their young.

A female calf was July 24, 2018, near Victoria, British Columbia. She was born sick, due to toxins in the water and lived only a half of an hour. After the calf died, her mother, Telequah carried her baby’s body, to keep it from sinking to the bottom of the ocean. This was her way of grieving for her baby.

On the days following the death of her baby, Tahlequah continued to carry the calf but she became exhausted and her pod became worried about her health, so the members of her pod began to take turns carrying the dead calf.

By the ninth day, the calve’s body began to decompose, making it harder for the whales to carry her. In the early part of August, the pod left Tahlequah and her dead calf. On Au. 8, the mother and calf was spotted, by then Tahlequah had carried her baby for 16 days. The following day, Tahlequah released her baby’s body and rejoined her pod with no signs of illness or health issues. This sad animal story shows how the effects of pollution impact sea life.

Every year about 2.4 million cigarette butts are found in the ocean. Cigarette butts take about one to five years to decompose. Every year 4–12 million tons of plastic enter the ocean. Plastic can take up to 450 years to decompose and aluminum cans up to 200 years. Litter in the ocean contain chemicals such as microplastics and pesticides which are not suitable for humans or animals. Marine animals often mistake debris as food, which pollutes their body and continues to spread chemicals throughout the ocean even after they die.

Even humans are affected by the pollution being dumped into our water systems. Sometimes lakes and beaches where people come to swim are being closed due to the high levels of chemicals in the area. Not only are chemicals bad, but the debris and garbage itself can be a hazard for humans and animals. For example, if a glass bottle is thrown into the ocean and it breaks, it could easily be stepped on by a human; or eaten by a fish.

On April 19, at 7 p.m. at the Lopez Center, The D.R.E.A.M. Team, a drug-related education awareness mentors and the Lopez Youth Council would like to invite the community to meet and discuss how adults on Lopez can help draw the line between youth and the illegal use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco. The youth has received a grant to raise community awareness around the issues of teen alcohol use.

April 20 is the Great Islands Clean Up event, and the youth council invites everyone to join them clean debris and litter from the beaches, roads and buildings. Registration is at 10 a.m. in the parking lot behind Blossom Grocery. Everyone on Lopez is invited to both events.

Maddie Zoreb serves on both the D.R.E.A.M. Team and the Lopez Youth Council. Grace Zoerb’s senior project was based on how to support Southern resident orca.