Sunday, 17 February, 2019

Global team gives medication to sick killer whale at sea

John Durban  NOAA Fisheries FILE John Durban NOAA Fisheries FILE
Theresa Hayes | 12 August, 2018, 17:39

Meanwhile, biologists and veterinarians mobilized Thursday in an attempt to prevent more losses in the imperiled J Pod family, with J50, age 3½, feared to be near death from starvation.

Whale experts preparing to save an ailing killer whale now have authorization to intervene with medical treatment in both US and Canadian waters.

But by early afternoon, it appeared the 3 1/2-year-old female orca known as J50 was too far north in Canadian waters and that any trial feeding effort would not happen Friday, said Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who is leading response efforts on the water.

They have called for the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River to restore salmon runs. It will take up to a week to get results. It was fed live salmon in the pen. The fish could be a vehicle to deliver medication to her that can't be administered any other way.

"If it's determined that antibiotics would be useful, then antibiotics through injection is going to be our best course rather than antibiotics through food, because we recognize that we won't able to treat her every day", Rowles said. "It struck me very dramatically". While very skinny & small, J50 kept up with her mother & siblings.

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

This is the latest troubling sign for a population already at its lowest in more than three decades.

Haulena said that he does not suspect that respiratory disease is a factor in J50's illness. As of August 9, The Seattle Times reports that Tahlequah was still clinging to her baby, keeping its 400-pound (180-kilogram) body afloat with her head, coming up for air and swimming in a tight circle behind her pod for a few breaths before diving down deep to lift her daughter's body to the surface again. She was easily keeping up with her group.

It's hard to watch, but for 17 days and counting, Tahlequah has been traveling 60-70 miles (97-112 kilometers) a day in strong current with her baby's corpse on her head, showing us what grief looks like.

Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said they are anxious that the time and energy it spends carrying the body could take away from foraging or feeding. J35 was seen Wednesday still pushing the carcass of her calf more than two weeks after the newborn died.

Researchers will next determine whether to proceed with feeding, depending on conditions and location of the whales. "So we basically have to get within five metres of the whale", Hanson said. 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.

We humans are compassionate animals, partly because we're good at spotting cause-and-effect relationships.