Team rushes to help ailing orca spotted off Canada

Federico Mansilla
Agosto 10, 2018

The experts now have authorization to intervene with medical treatment in both USA and Canadian waters once the critically endangered orca shows up again in the inland waters of the Pacific Northwest.

An endangered orca is not letting go of her newborn calf, whose body she has been pushing through the water for more than two weeks.

The young orca J50 was spotted off British Columbia and teams will do a health assessment if conditions in the waters between the US and Canada allow, said Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries.

A team of whale experts has injected an ailing killer whale with antibiotics in a rare emergency effort to save her.

The adult orca's condition is being monitored, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration fisheries experts wrote on the agency's website.

They spotted J35 while searching for another of the remaining 75 southern resident killer whales, labelled an endangered species in both Canada and the United States.

The female orca known as J35 has been clinging to her calf since it died July 24, an image of grief that has struck an emotional chord worldwide.

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Wednesday's spotting was the first time the pair had been seen since last week. The scientists said they have no plans to intervene; removing the dead calf would have serious repercussions to the group.

J35 has carried her dead calf on her head for at least 16 days.

"We have obvious concerns about the displacement of her behavior away from foraging and feeding towards carrying the calf", Thornton said.

Drone video from the Center for Whale Research and the University of Exeter taken off Pile Point, on the west side of San Juan Island.

"Tracking the animals in close proximity is challenging", Hanson said, mentioning that breath sampling is almost impossible in bad weather. In order to feed the sick whale the medicated fish, crews must get within five metres of the pod.

The last time scientists rescued a killer whale in the region was in 2002 when a northern resident killer whale known as Springer was found swimming alone in Puget Sound.

On a call Thursday morning, a team of scientists say it's possible that the mother's body, primed for lactation, could be sustaining her. Dolphin and whale fat is packed with energy. She returned to her family of whales in Canada later that year and in 2013 was seen with her new calf. She was fed live salmon in the pen.

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