NRL News

Almost Human?

by | Jun 22, 2020

By Helena Sicree

Editor’s note. This appeared in the Summer issue of LifeLines, the publication of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. Helena was the first place winner in the Junior High Division of the Pro-Life Essay Contest.

Everyone knows that animals are not as smart as humans. We have the high intelligence that lets us fly airplanes, build skyscrapers, and create vast cities under the sun. We are the ones who peer through telescopes and microscopes into other worlds. We are the ones who conquered Earth and its wilderness, not animals. Yet then, what does it tell us, the smartest creatures on Earth, when the animals right next door understand the preciousness of life more than us?

This has been shown clearly in a tragic story involving a pod of Pacific Northwest orcas with a female named J35, but nicknamed Tahlequah. After a 17-month pregnancy, she delivered her baby on July 24, 2018, only to watch it die 30 minutes later. The 20-year-old mother was devastated. She carried the deceased baby near the surface, and according to Daily Mail, “…the other members of the family knew J35 was pregnant because of their sonar…,” and the orca’s family stayed by her side, apparently grieving, through it all. The mourning mother carried her dead baby for seventeen days and over a thousand miles on her head, which National Geographic described as a “tour of grief”. This truly showed that though Tahlequah had only known her baby for a short time, according to Daily Mail’s Deborah Giles, “It understands the social bonds that it has with the rest of its family members.”

Not only does that story show how mother animals understand that a baby is part of the family, but so does the heart-rending story about Orky and Corky, two orcas from Marineland, California, in the 1970s. Though the tank, according to Eugene Linden in The Parrot’s Lament, was perhaps inadequate, Corky was soon pregnant. Orky, as the father, began doing something people had never seen before; and he “would swim up beside Corky and put his forehead against her belly…[presumably] giving Corky a sonogram.” 

Orky would do this quite often, and everything seemed fine, until one examination. As Orky “gave his mate his own examination…in just the manner a doctor might run sonogram equipment over a pregnant woman’s stomach..,” Orky detected something wrong and proceeded to injure himself in agitation. He “…went over to the wall and slammed his head against the side of the tank in an outburst of emotion..[and] two hours later, Corky aborted.” It was clear that even Orky, as a father, recognized the importance of the unborn baby whale, and was abjectly upset when he detected the baby dead. 

These two stories clearly prove that even animals realize that a baby, and an unborn one at that, is part of the family. They understand that the baby isn’t some impediment, or something they can get rid of. They recognize the baby as a baby, as someone waiting patiently for months to meet them. If animals from all over the world can understand that an unborn baby is a baby wanting life, then why can’t we?


Cuthbert, Lori, and Main, Douglas.  “Orca Mother Drops Calf After 17 Days of Mourning,”  August 13, 2018.

Lenthang, Marlene.  “Grieving orca Tahlequah finally drops her dead calf after carrying it on her forehead for 17 days and 1,000 miles,” , August 13, 2018.

Linden, Eugene.  The Parrot’s Lament: And Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity.   Penguin Random House, 2000. 

Categories: Life