Emergency rescue efforts for endangered killer whale hit snag in Canada

09 August, 2018, 00:24 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Biologists are keeping a close watch on J50 a 4-year-old southern resident killer whale. The indentation behind her head is indicative of a whale that is starving because the animal lacks the fatty deposits behind the cranium that create the usual smooth

A young endangered orca has been spotted off the west coast of Vancouver Island by a research crew with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The orca known as J50 appears emaciated and scientists have said she may have only days to live.

Scientists in Canada and the USA have been working together to save her life.

"It's a great relief that she's still alive", said Paul Cottrell, marine mammals co-ordinator with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"What they're working on this morning.to determine which method they're going to use, [is] based on the dose that they have configured for her", Rowles told ABC News on Tuesday.

She is one of only 75 remaining southern resident killer whales that are found in coastal waters from British Columbia to California. As a young female, experts say, she has reproductive potential and could play a vital role in the southern residents' recovery.

With that hope - and under the worldwide attention on J-Pod since a mother whale carried her dead newborn calf for days - officials on both sides of the border are preparing to act.

Scientists and researchers are trying to find a way to help the ailing orca, killer whale, J50, who they said could die in a week or so.


"It was foggy up there for most of the day", Cottrell said. Then the whales disappeared back into the fog. The first step, now that she has been recovered, will be a health assessment. This involves collecting breath and stool samples and observing her behaviour.

There has also been a suggestion of attempting an oral administration of antibiotics via the live salmon, but injection remains the first priority.

While the salmon-feeding idea has not yet received approval from Canadian officials, Cottrell says Canada is prepared to give the green light to a plan to administer antibiotics by dart or with a pole-mounted syringe, once it receives an application from its American counterparts.

Rowles said that while the research boats are out in the water searching for Scarlet, they have to keep a distance at least 200 yards to make sure that they don't further stress the sick, young whale or other whales.

"The fish would be distributed into the water in front of her", she said.

Whale experts have been increasingly anxious about J50 after a researcher last month noticed an odour on the orca's breath, a smell detected on other orcas that later died.

In response to criticism that NOAA has waited too long to intervene, Rowles said that previous images of J50 had shown she "had been declining", but was "not critical" until the past few weeks or months.

Scientists and researchers are in a race against time, struggling to save an ailing 3-year-old killer whale named Scarlet which has gone missing.

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