Antibiotic delivered to wild killer whale in worldwide rescue operation

Antibiotic delivered to wild killer whale in worldwide rescue operation

A team of experts led by NOAA Fisheries have been searching for the young whale to assess her health and potentially give her medication.

The heartbreaking story about a grieving mother orca who has spent the past 16 days carrying the body of her dead calf has gained an enormous amount of attention.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said its effort will involve shooting antibiotics in the orca to aid with recovery and using a local tribe to feed them fish that has medicine, a rare practice that has not been tried in the wild before.

The whale known as J50 is underweight and may have an infection.

Scientists on both sides of the border have become increasingly concerned about J50's emaciated state in recent weeks and fear she could die, dealing yet another blow to the declining population of 75 southern resident killer whales.

"Even if her family is foraging for and sharing fish with her, J35 can not be getting the. nutrition she needs to regain any body-mass loss that would have naturally occurred during the gestation of her fetus and also additional loss of nutrition during these weeks of mourning", she said.

Killer whale research scientist Sheila Thornton said removing the calf would be a "very, very hard decision" that it would come down to the health of the mother. This September 2015 photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows a aerial view of adult female Southern Resident killer whale (J16) swims with her calf (J50). She is deteriorating, and scientists are not seeing improvements in a loss of tissue behind her head, Thornton said.

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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.

An worldwide team has been waiting for the chance to get close to the female killer whale to help her, including possibly giving her antibiotics or feeding her live salmon at sea. One week later, members of her pod were seen taking turns holding the calf.

"We've seen mother whales carry dead babies briefly, for parts of a day".

NOAA and the Center for Whale Research cite multiple factors threatening the killer whales, including a diminishing Chinook salmon population - which is their preferred fish - as well as increased pollution, water traffic, and increased noise - which stresses out the whales and interferes their ability to reproduce. Losing J50 also would mean losing her reproductive potential, Hanson said. She has a body condition that is far different than the rest of the animals in her group. But I'm hopeful that she will bounce back'.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has set up a task force to find solutions to help increase the number of killer whales.

"Having not laid eyes on her personally before, it was dramatic how thin she is", Haulena said.

One of the problems affecting whales is the lack of salmon, their main source of food due to overfishing for commercial consumption.

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