Starving, endangered killer whale J50 spotted alive in US waters

11 August, 2018, 07:23 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • Lummi Hereditary Chief Bill James center, leads a blessing aboard a Lummi Nation Natural Resources Enforcement boat before departing Bellingham

She said it wasn't certain whether it would be possible to feed live fish to J50 without negative impact on the individual orca or the pod.

Canadian and US scientists are particularly anxious to save J50, a juvenile female that has the potential to reproduce and assist with the population's recovery.

Sheila Thornton, a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says J50 was spotted with her mother but she could not say what direction they are travelling. The whale, known as J50, was last seen with its pod on Saturday night. The only sighting Tuesday was between 3:52 and 4:31 p.m., when Canadian researchers saw J50, staying close to her mother, moving steadily along, and resting.

"We don't know exactly what is wrong with her", Rowles said in a teleconference.

"We would be ideally approaching her when she is separated from her pod members, which is not unusual for her", said NOAA Regional Stranding coordinator Kristin Wilkinson. "We are hopeful that there's still a chance that we will be able to assist her with medical treatment and give her enough time to get nourishment and treat infections, if indeed that is what is causing her decline", Rowles said.

J-pod recently drew an global spotlight when another orca, J35, was spotted pushing the body of her dead calf through the water for more than a week.

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If J50 is in American waters and needs antibiotics, Rowles said the next step will be to administer an antibiotic that lasts 10 to 14 days.

Feeding J50 by bringing her live chinook salmon caught by the Lummi Nation could begin as soon as Thursday.

A team of worldwide scientists hope to get close enough in order to inject her with antibiotics.

While it's not uncommon for southern resident killer whales to go unsighted for days, researchers were racing the clock to find J-pod because of the young whale's poor health.

Lynne Barre, southern resident killer whale recovery co-ordinator with the USA agency, said officials are developing treatment options based on their knowledge of illnesses that have killed orcas in the past. There are about six boats searching between Vancouver Island and Puget Sound.

Canadian and American scientists are considering how to deliver potentially life-saving medication to a sick killer whale, identified as J-50. Another female orca from the group that spends time in U.S. Northwest waters attracted global attention as the grieving animal tried to keep her dead baby afloat. She was the first orca to be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild.

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