Starving orca J50 finally spotted alive; emergency action could start Wednesday

Biologists are keeping a close watch on J50 a 4-year-old southern resident killer whale. The indentation behind her head is indicative of a whale that is starving because the animal lacks the fatty deposits behind the cranium that create the usual smooth

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"It's a great relief that she's still alive", said Paul Cottrell, marine mammals co-ordinator with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In a remarkable demonstration of maternal affection viewed around the world, 30-year-old Tahlequah, went into mourning, sometimes carrying the dead baby calf on her back for hundreds of miles over the course of at least 10 days.

An aerial photograph of adult female Southern Resident killer whale J16 with her calf (J50) in 2015, when the calf was in its first year of life.

"We're going to make this happen, if it's deemed appropriate to do this", Cottrell said.

They'll decide then whether to administer antibiotics using a dart injector or a long pole syringe.

The U.S. -based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has approval to attempt feeding the whale the medicated salmon but for now that could only take place in U.S. waters.

Rowles said that while the research boats are out in the water searching for Scarlet, they have to keep a distance at least 200 yards to make sure that they don't further stress the sick, young whale or other whales. The ailing orca was swimming with her mom Wednesday.

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

Researchers took breath samples, and a drone flown above the whales Wednesday showed that J50 is much skinnier and her body condition has gotten worse. "We are hopeful that there's still a chance that we will be able to assist her with medical treatment to give her enough time to get nourishment and treat infections, if indeed that is what is causing her decline".

There are now only 75 southern resident killer whales that live in the waters along the USA west coast from Alaska to California, according to Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research.

"Hopefully, they are doing well and foraging and doing what they need to do".

Canadian officials have not received an application to administer antibiotics to the whale in Canadian waters, Cottell said, a procedure NOAA wants to try if J50 is in Washington waters.

Springer was two years old when she was found in Puget Sound near Seattle, ailing and separated from her pod.

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