Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Sick orca gets shot of antibiotics as rescuers prepare feeding attempt

Mourning orca mother still carrying dead calf more than two weeks later on 'tour of grief' Grieving orca still carrying her dead calf more than two weeks later
Celia Hoffman | 12 August, 2018, 04:44

Orca J50 with sister J42.

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

Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries, says researchers on Wednesday spotted the 20-year-old whale, known as J35 - or Tahlequah, still carrying her dead young off the tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

The experimental, emergency plan to save J50 requires scientists to nail down her ailments through breath and fecal samples, then administer long-lasting antibiotics by either pole-mounted syringe or dart. It will take up to a week to get results.

The orca is thin and in poor body condition.

Vancouver Aquarium's head veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena, examined the orca.

In light of this, top veterinarians and whale experts are desperately working to come up with a way to restore this gentle giant's health as soon as possible. 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.

The Lummi Nation is also standing by to provide live chinook salmon for the young whale.

Haulena said they watched J50 rejoin her group on Thursday. "It struck me very dramatically". She did demonstrate pretty good swimming ability.

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She was following Tahlequah's story from Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, and like many around the world, is moved by the whale's plight. "Can we do it when she is a bit separated from the group?"

This is the latest troubling sign for a population already at its lowest in more than three decades.

"Our goal is to see if this is a viable option to deliver medication", she said. As of August 9, The Seattle Times reports that Tahlequah was still clinging to her baby, keeping its 400-pound (180-kilogram) body afloat with her head, coming up for air and swimming in a tight circle behind her pod for a few breaths before diving down deep to lift her daughter's body to the surface again. She was easily keeping up with her group.

J35 was first spotted July 24 carrying the calf on her nose and in her mouth. J35 was seen Wednesday still pushing the carcass of her calf more than two weeks after the newborn died.

"Removing the calf would be a very, very hard decision, and obviously we would have to take many factors into consideration, so that's now not on the table", she said.

Further interaction with J Pod could be hampered over the next few days by a weather system moving into the area.

The team will decide in the field whether to feed the orca, which is emaciated and possibly suffering an infection, depending on a number of factors, including the animal's behavior and location, Barre told reporters.

"She appears to be in distress and may not be feeding successfully, so we are asking vessels continue to give her a wide berth", said DFO regional director Andrew Thomson. But what is unknown is her condition going into her pregnancy, and after the loss of it.

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