Veterinarians ready for efforts to save ailing orca whale

Christopher Davidson
August 8, 2018

An endangered killer whale that has prompted an worldwide rescue effort won't receive antibiotics by dart or by fish if it's found in Canadian water.

They said Tuesday that they're still hoping to find J50 to do a health assessment and are considering treating her with a specialized syringe or medicine-laced salmon.

But Paul Cottrell of Fisheries and Oceans Canada says paperwork is still being looked at to be sure any effort to treat J-50 in Canadian waters does not affect other members of the 75-member southern resident pod.

American officials said the whale appeared lethargic and lost almost 20 per cent of its body mass.

"We don't know exactly what is wrong with her", Rowles said in a teleconference.

"It's very possible that she has succumbed at this point and we may never see her again".

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"We are hopeful that there's still a chance that we will be able to assist her", Rowles said.

NOAA would work with local tribes and governments to help feed J50.

"If then things are going well and the behavior of the group and her responses to the (medication) is going okay, then they could move forward with the fish feeding trial", Rowles said.

It's not unusual for wild whales to be out of sight for some time, but J-50's condition was so poor it's not clear how long she has left.

The first step, however, would be to assess the whale's health and try delivering medication in a more conventional way, by approaching J-50 by boat and using either a dart or pole to inject her.

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

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