Biologists racing to find endangered, sick, starving orca

Mourning orca mother still carrying dead calf more than two weeks later on 'tour of grief'

Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said they are anxious that the time and energy it spends carrying the body could take away from foraging or feeding.

The rescue team has approval in both USA and Canadian waters to give J50 medication, but there is no such plan for another member of the population of southern resident killer whales that has scientists anxious.

The Latest on the plan to save a young emaciated orca. "That is not on the table", said Brad Hanson, wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

An worldwide team of experts has successfully administered antibiotics to ailing young orca J50 in an emergency effort to save her life, an apparent first for an orca in the wild.

The response group is now considering a trial feeding the young whale live salmon as a possible tactic to deliver oral antibiotics in the future. Researchers spotted the 20-year-old whale and the calf off of Washington's Olympic Peninsula on Wednesday, the station says.

Scientists say the animal has now fallen behind her pod and is at risk of becoming isolated.

"Vancouver Aquarium's veterinarian and the team conducted a visual assessment, obtained a breath sample that will help assess any infection, and administered antibiotics through a dart".




"I do stress this is a very thin whale", Haulena said, noting that others in the same condition have not survived.

"We have obvious concerns about the displacement of her behavior away from foraging and feeding, to carrying the calf, and concerns over the length of time of this behavior as it continues, and the possibility of decreasing her ability to forage effectively", Thornton said.

The earliest the weather is forecasted to clear up is Sunday, Hanson said, and the plan will be easier if the whales move closer to the coast. Scientists are anxious about her and will watch her but don't have plans to help her or remove the calf. If things go well, the whale may then be given live salmon dosed with medication. We know they're capable of emotions like grief because the parts of their brains that do social and emotional work are big and elaborate, and they even contain specialized empathy cells called von Economo neurons, which help highly social animals like primates, elephants and whales achieve the extreme levels of cooperation that's required of them.

The fish-eating orcas that frequent the inland waters of Washington state are down to 75 animals, and there hasn't been a successful birth since 2015.

The last time scientists rescued a killer whale in the region was in 2002, when they rehabilitated an orca known as Springer who was found alone.

An emergency effort to feed and treat an ailing young member of the endangered southern resident killer whales made headway on Thursday, according to rescuers.

They also face overlapping threats from toxic pollution and noise and disturbances from boats. Chinook salmon, their primary source of food, has been in a steep decline since the 1980s due to overfishing, habitat destruction and contaminated waters. She was last seen Thursday still carrying her calf.

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