Grieving orca still carrying her dead calf more than two weeks later

Katy Foster  NOAA Fisheries

Katy Foster NOAA Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries says the global team reached the 3½-year-old orca in the waters near Washington state's San Juan Island.

An global 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.

A team of whale experts has injected an ailing killer whale with antibiotics in a rare emergency effort to save her.

Mr Milstein says researchers with Fisheries and Ocean Canada also spotted another member of the same pod - the 3 ½-year old whale J50 that is emaciated. If things go well, the whale may then be given live salmon dosed with medication.

They have called for the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River to restore salmon runs.

Researchers with the Whale Sanctuary Project practiced taking samples of fish scales so they can later genetically track whether the whale consumed that fish.

Brad Hanson with NOAA said earlier Thursday that if they didn't obtain health samples from J50 soon, opportunities to medicate the orca might dry up as rough weather is expected to come in Friday.

"Obviously the connection they've formed with this calf is substantial and it's something that we do have to take into account", he said.

"These are very intelligent animals, and the loss of this animal is quite profound for the matriline and everyone who witnesses it", said Sheila Thornton, lead killer-whale scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 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. "We are hopeful that there is 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".

But veterinarians haven't spotted the 3½-year-old female killer whale in several days.

The carcass is "surprisingly intact", she said.

The young whale is one of just 75 of the fish-eating orcas that frequent the inland waters of Washington state. There hasn't been a successful birth since 2015.

Hanson said Springer's case was different because it was isolated.

"That's what this is really all about".

They also face overlapping threats from toxic pollution and noise and disturbances from boats.

Center for Whale Research's Ken Balcomb estimates the orca swam while carrying the calf for about a thousand miles since the baby died. Scientists are anxious about her and will watch her but don't have plans to help her or remove the calf. Yet still she clings to the body of her baby. People from all over the world have remained riveted as the mother killer whale has lugged the body of her dead calf around the Salish Sea.

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