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Teams heading out to help ailing Northwest orca

12 August 2018

Killer whale Tahlequah was first spotted carrying her daughter's body on her back near Vancouver Island on July 24.

For now, researchers and veterinarians working to treat J50 will continue to monitor J35, looking closely at her for skin lesions, any changes in the way she swims or surfaces or major changes in her breath, which could indicate that she is metabolizing lipids.

The team led by the USA agency lacks a permit to feed the sick whale live salmon in Canadian waters, though it had one for medical treatment.

Experts at the Whale Museum on San Juan Island have been monitoring the whale since her calf died last month.

We are saddened to report that a baby Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) died a short time after it was born near.

Dawn Noren, a research biologist at NOAA, said that it's possible the orca - named J35 - has podmates who've been foraging for her and giving her food.

"I think that's one of the things that's most worrisome to me".

Giles said the spotlight on the animals, while itself terrible news, has already led to skyrocketing worry about their plight.

It was dramatic how thin she was, Haulena said, adding that he wants to know more about her digestive system and whether she's been eating.

It's hard to watch, but for 17 days and counting, Tahlequah has been traveling 60-70 miles (97-112 kilometers) a day in strong current with her baby's corpse on her head, showing us what grief looks like.

Still, most hope she'll drop her dead calf soon just to avoid undue stress.

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Any intervention with the pod will be contingent on the behavior of the whales, as well as the weather and swell conditions.

They also face overlapping threats from toxic pollution and noise and disturbances from boats.

'You could see the shape of her skull through her blubber, ' said Dr Giles.

J50 is a member of J Pod of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale group, that includes orca J35 "Tahlequah" who has been carrying her dead calf with her for more than two weeks.

A multi-year study last year by University of Washington and other researchers found that two-thirds of the orcas' pregnancies failed between 2007 and 2014. Researchers with the Whale Sanctuary Project took a sample of the fish scales so they can later genetically track whether the whales consume that fish, while other crews with the Lummi tribe scooped the salmon out of a large bin and sent it into the water. Her immediate family has been spotted helping her eat.

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

"I certainly think the length of the situation is unprecedented", Thornton said.

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

Hanson said Springer's case was different because it was isolated.

They are anxious she isn't getting enough time to forage for food.

Teams heading out to help ailing Northwest orca