Grieving orca still swimming with her dead calf in Northwest

People from all over the world have remained riveted as the mother killer whale has lugged the body of her dead calf around the Salish Sea.

The female orca known as J35 has been clinging to its calf since it died July 24, an image of grief that has struck an emotional chord worldwide.

Scientists are anxious that Tahlequah, or J35, is not getting adequate food because she has been carrying her baby for so long.

The teams were, however, racing out to sea to help another ailing young killer whale in the same critically endangered pod.

If the plan goes ahead, J50 would be given unmedicated fish to see if feeding is feasible and gauge her response. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had a permit for such efforts in USA waters.

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.

For now, the unprecedented attempt to feed live salmon to a free-swimming killer whale would have to wait. Scientists had no plans to take the calf away from J35 or her pod, noting the "tight bond, "reports The Seattle Times".

The tweet says the next step is to decide if trial feeding of J50 should proceed, although it says that will depend on the location of the pod, as well as water and weather conditions.

Sheila Thornton, a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said experts are becoming concerned that the whale's behaviour will interfere with her ability to forage. "But it is it very, very, real", she said.

"Our decision will be based on science and we will act quickly with our partners when conditions permit, to take appropriate action", the ministry said in a statement. "So we basically have to get within five metres of the whale", Hanson said. Scientists are anxious about her and will watch her but don't have plans to help her or remove the calf. "It's very hard to say, but certainly they're very intelligent animals and the loss of this animal is quite profound for both the (killer whales) and I think for everyone who witnesses this".

The young whale is one of just 75 of the fish-eating orcas that frequent the inland waters of Washington state.

But ultimately, even if biologists are successful in bringing this whale back to a healthy state while keeping it wild, it still won't fix what is causing orcas to become sick in the first place: an extreme lack of Chinook salmon, their main food source, largely as a result of - you guessed it - overfishing, creation of dams, and habitat degradation caused by humans!

The last time scientists rescued a killer whale in the region was in 2002 when a northern resident killer whale known as Springer was found swimming alone in Puget Sound.

The orca was last seen off the coast of Washington on Wednesday. By the time biologists from the Center for Whale Research arrived at her side, the calf was dead.

But the carcass, which Tahlequah has now carried for around 1,000 miles, is starting to deteriorate, and Giles said her mourning may soon come to an end.

They have called for the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River to restore salmon runs.

Vanessa Coleman

Comments