Vets Ready for Rare Efforts to Save Ailing Endangered Orca

John Durban  NOAA Fisheries FILE

John Durban NOAA Fisheries FILE

Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale scientist with Fisheries Oceans Canada, said the whale looks more like a 2-year-old though it has always been small for her age. In addition, she has a depression on the back of her head which is indicative of a condition called "peanut head", a syndrome which has reportedly killed 11 of the 13 orcas researchers have found with it.

Orca whales also do not have babies often or in large numbers, and when they do, it is a long process.

They hunt in these groups, and animals that become isolated can suffer a potentially life-threatening food shortage, experts warn.

Another female orca in the same pod has triggered an worldwide outpouring as she clings to the body of her dead calf that died two weeks ago.

The whale was first spotted carrying the calf on her nose and in her mouth on July 24. 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. But what is unknown is her condition going into her pregnancy, and after the loss of it. NOAA would apply for the feeding permit if conditions are right, said Lynne Barre, NOAA Fisheries' recovery coordinator for the whales.

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with Les Purce, co-chair of the state's Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force.

DFO photo of J35 pushing her calf on August 8, 2018, off Cape Flattery, Wash.

Earlier this year, a study by a non-profit organisation revealed whales and dolphins will hold "vigils" for their dead.

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

'The baby was so newborn it didn't have blubber.

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Scarlet is part of the Southern Resident population that includes Tahlequah, whose heartbreak made headlines worldwide after she carried her dead calf for days this month.

'It understands the social bonds that it has with the rest of its family members'.

Scientists have been concerned about J50, saying she has a white patch by her blow hole, her cranium is showing, and her flukes are discolored, all signs of malnutrition. It is that simple. "I think she is grieving".

According to Dr Giles, the other members of the family knew J35 was pregnant due to their sonar, which the animals also use to communicate with one another.

"The fish would be distributed into the water in front of her", she said.

From the Center for Whale Research. The situation is most certainly urgent, especially considering that this sick orca is one of the mere 75 individuals of her kind left on Earth.

Researchers spotted mothers seeming to grieve for other females in the group. They didn't observe whether J50 had been eating or not.

They said the practice of postmorten attentive behaviour (PAB) could be because individuals had failed "to recognise or accept that an offspring or companion has died".

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

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