Scientists concerned about endangered orca still pushing body of her calf


Scientists on both sides of the border have been working together on an emergency rescue plan for a young female orca known as J50, that appears emaciated but continues to swim alongside her mother.

However, as much as people want to intervene on the scene, scientists suggest leaving the mom orca and her dead calf alone.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said its effort will involve shooting antibiotics in the orca to aid with recovery and using a local tribe to feed them fish that has medicine, a rare practice that has not been tried in the wild before.

Because Tahlequah was pregnant, it is possible she began carrying her deceased calf with an extra boost of lipids in her blubber that could be helping her now, said Dawn Noren, research fishery biologist at NOAA's Northwest Center in Seattle.

"Even if her family is foraging for and sharing fish with her, J35 can not be getting the. nutrition she needs to regain any body-mass loss that would have naturally occurred during the gestation of her fetus and also additional loss of nutrition during these weeks of mourning", she said.

Sheila Thornton, the lead killer whale research scientist for DFO, said that the researchers have "obvious concerns" about the behavior of J35.

This is likely due to a sharp decline in the killer whales' main food source - the Chinook salmon - as well as contamination of the waters that they live in.

NOAA has a plan to try and nurse Scarlet back to health, but it's a complicated one that depends on her condition.

"What we are going to concentrate on in the next few days is her ability to eat", said Haulena.

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"The fish would be distributed into the water in front of her", she said. The fact that her body was likely prepped for lactation, too, means she has extra lipids in her blubber that will sustain her for a while.

Killer whales, though they have a reputation for being ruthless predators, are some of the most socially sophisticated animals in the world. He said the whale is incredibly skinny but was swimming well and there were no obvious signs of abnormality with her skin.

Fearing that J50's fate will be the same if they don't intervene, scientists are considering multiple strategies created to save the starving whale, including feeding her live salmon dosed with medication at sea.

Experts say Springer's case was different because she was isolated.

When the water calmed, the team was also able to get a sample from her blow hole, which he said they believe will be very valuable to assess.

Since then, an adult male orca went missing in June and is presumed dead.

The efforts come as a task force called by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee met Tuesday to come up with solutions to help the whales.

They are anxious she isn't getting enough time to forage for food. The idea is to do a trial run with live salmon, releasing the fish through a chute about 50 to 100 yards in front of the orca.