Grieving Orca Mother Still Carrying Her Dead Calf. It's Been 16 Days

John Durban  NOAA Fisheries FILE

Teams taking drastic measures to save a young, ailing killer whale loaded up two boats with fat live salmon as the sun rose Friday and rushed to waters off Washington state's San Juan Island, preparing if needed to test-feed the critically endangered orca a day after injecting it with medicine. The J Pod was seen earlier Thursday, but neither J50 nor J35, the orca carrying her dead calf, were immediately seen.

"The team obtained a breath sample to help assess infection & and gave antibiotics".

Brad Hanson of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says hard conditions have prevented the teams from collecting breath and fecal samples but they are hoping weather conditions improve by Sunday.

While he is part of the core veterinarian team trying to save the whale, it was the first time he'd seen the animal in person. Ken Balcomb with the Center for Whale Research told The Seattle Times J35 has carried the carcass of her calf more approximately 1,000 miles or more.

But as of Wednesday night, Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it has received an application from NOAA to administer the antibiotics.

Killer whale research scientist Sheila Thornton said removing the calf would be a "very, very hard decision" that it would come down to the health of the mother.

Another female orca in the same pod has triggered an global outpouring as she clings to the body of her dead calf that died two weeks ago. Tahlequah is not carrying that calf's body all by herself - members of her family have been helping her with her vigil.

"Responders from NOAA Fisheries and partner organizations are exploring options ranging from no intervention to providing medical treatment, potentially delivered in a live chinook salmon, which has never before been attempted in the wild". The fact that her body was likely prepped for lactation, too, means she has extra lipids in her blubber that will sustain her for a while.

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"It's starting to come apart", she said.

16 days later, the killer whale still hasn't given up on her baby.

It was hearing initial recommendations focused on three main threats to the orcas: lack of food, toxic contamination and boat noise and disturbance.

The calf was believed to have died of malnutrition shortly after her birth.

"Our decision will be based on science and we will act quickly with our partners when conditions permit, to take appropriate action", the ministry said in a statement.

"The big question is, can we craft public policy that can make a difference in the future of the orca, and by doing so make a positive difference in how we live in Puget Sound", Purce said in an interview Monday. A final report is due in November. That data has documented orcas that declined and then disappeared.

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

It was dramatic how thin she was, Haulena said, adding that he wants to know more about her digestive system and whether she's been eating.

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