Antibiotic delivered to wild killer whale in international rescue operation

A baby orca whale was pushed by her mother after being born off the Canada coast near Victoria British Columbia. The new orca died soon after being born and was seen on Tuesday

The orca, known as J-50, is smaller than she should be for her age, and lost an additional 20 per cent of her body weight in recent weeks.

A mother orca was spotted today still carrying her dead calf for the 16th straight day after the infant was born off the Canada coast near Victoria, British Columbia and died shortly afterwards.

Whale experts have been increasingly anxious about J50 after a researcher last month noticed an odor on the orca's breath, a smell detected on other orcas that later died.

The rescue team has approval in both USA and Canadian waters to give J50 medication, but there is no such plan for another member of the population of southern resident killer whales that has scientists anxious.

The U.S. and Canada have no plans to remove J50 from her pod in order to feed or medicate her, as that would likely cause too much stress to J50 and her pod. The fact that we haven't seen any in several years and then to have reproductive failure is further evidence that we have a severe problem with the reproductive viability in the population, ' said Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. The team of experts who followed the whale on the water for about six hours Thursday got a breath sample to analyze whether she might have bacteria or fungus in her airway. She was last spotted on Wednesday. Researchers say J50 was thin but able to keep up with her mother and siblings. NOAA would apply for the feeding permit if conditions are right, said Lynne Barre, NOAA Fisheries' recovery coordinator for the whales.

The orca was given a dose of antibiotics from a dart Thursday, and Marty Haulena, head veterinarian at Vancouver Aquarium, who got a close look at J50.

'You could see the shape of her skull through her blubber, ' said Dr Giles.

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"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. "To us, she is still a critical whale", Haulena said.

But they don't plan to intervene to help a mother orca in the same critically endangered pod that also has them anxious. We know they're capable of emotions like grief because the parts of their brains that do social and emotional work are big and elaborate, and they even contain specialized empathy cells called von Economo neurons, which help highly social animals like primates, elephants and whales achieve the extreme levels of cooperation that's required of them.

The young whale is one of just 75 of the fish-eating orcas that frequent the inland waters of Washington state.

Experts say Springer's case was different because she was isolated.

Experts at the Whale Museum on San Juan Island have been monitoring the whale since her calf died last month.

A photo of a response team pole as members try to take a breath sample and give antibiotics to southern resident killer whale J50 on Thursday.

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

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