Team Gives Medication To Sick Killer Whale At Sea

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"I am sobbing. I can't believe she is still carrying her calf around", Deborah Giles, a research scientist and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca, told the Seattle Times. "Great work by the teams on the water!"

Experts at the Whale Museum on San Juan Island have been monitoring the whale since her calf died last month. It's unclear if the whale has been eating, and scientists told the outlet her vast swim could very well be depleting her energy reserves.

Depending on the conditions, the team could gather samples and treat J50 with antibiotics on the same day, he said. NOAA officials say her condition is being monitored.

The plan on Thursday was to provide emergency assistance for the whale, with a visual medical assessment, as well as a shot of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Washington Govenor Jay Inslee signed an executive order in March directing state agencies to take immediate action to help the orcas.

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Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said they'll often see the southern residents with poor body conditions at the start of the summer, but they improve over the season as they feed on chinook salmon. 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.

The fish are being delivered by truck from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery for loading into a tote on the Lummi Nation's boat.

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

Any intervention with the pod will be contingent on the behavior of the whales, as well as the weather and swell conditions. If they are busy traveling, biologists can't just push into the pod.

However, the Ministry clarifies that it must be ensured that the treatment attempt does not harm J-50 or other killer whales in its group. Not wanting to let its body sink to the ocean floor, she nudged it toward the surface as she made her way through the Pacific, off the coast of Canada and the northwestern US.

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The Southern Resident population has reduced to 75 animals, and has not had a successful birth in three years.

Many have expressed surprise at just how powerfully watching Tahlequah has affected them. "They are very intelligent animals, and the loss of this animal is quite profound".

"The connections between these animals are very strong, and to remove one from her familial group would have serious repercussions", she explained.

She was following Tahlequah's story from Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, and like many around the world, is moved by the whale's plight.

Veterinarians in the field will decide whether to give the ailing orca antibiotics, which would last between 10 and 14 days, using either a dart injector or a long pole syringe.

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