Scientists give medicine to sick killer whale near Washington State

Scientists give medicine to sick killer whale near Washington State

The orca is thin and in poor body condition.

Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said they are anxious that the time and energy she spends carrying the body could take away from foraging or feeding.

The team of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologists and vets was also able to take blow samples from J50 exhaling.

Another female orca from the group that spends time in U.S. Northwest waters attracted global attention as the grieving animal tried to keep her dead baby afloat.

Teams of whale experts on Thursday were racing out to sea to help an ailing young killer whale, but they don't plan to intervene to help a mother orca in the same critically endangered pod that has been pushing the body of its dead calf for more than two weeks.

NOAA says that the team will decide whether to feed the free-swimming whale live salmon from a boat.

As Tahlequah carries her deceased calf for a 17th straight day, and concerns mount about her health, taking the calf away is not an option because of the tight bond between Tahlequah and the rest of the pod to her baby - dead or alive, experts say.

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.

"Vancouver Aquarium's veterinarian and the team conducted a visual assessment, obtained a breath sample that will help assess any infection, and administered antibiotics through a dart".

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"It is very possible that she has succumbed at this point and that we may never see her again", Rowles told reporters Tuesday.

The idea of removing the calf from her mother is "not on the table", according to Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with NOAA.

It's the first time such a treatment has been used on a wild killer whale, NOAA said. If she eats the salmon, researchers will discuss delivering more medication through live fish.

Her apparent act of grief has tugged at the world's heartstrings for weeks and shown the struggles faced by her endangered pod of southern resident killer whales. "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 fish-eating orcas that frequent the inland waters of Washington state are down to 75 animals, and there hasn't been a successful birth since 2015.

The calf died July 24 and the image of the 20-year-old mother whale clinging to the dead calf has struck an emotional chord worldwide. Chinook salmon, their primary source of food, has been in a steep decline since the 1980s due to overfishing, habitat destruction and contaminated waters.

"I am sobbing. I can't believe she is still carrying her calf around", Ms Giles said.

Last week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a video statement on Facebook detailing what his office is doing to protect the orca population in the waters around the state.

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