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

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

An endangered orca was spotted Wednesday still clinging to her dead and decomposing calf, more than two weeks after her newborn died in what scientists have said is an "unprecedented" showing of grief.

The distinctive black-and-white orcas have struggled since they were listed as an endangered species in the US and Canada over a decade ago.

J50, the ailing 3 1/2-year-old orca, was seen along with her mother, J16.

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.

"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".

Tahlequah, referred to by scientists as J35, was spotted Wednesday by Canadian scientists pushing the body of her calf off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula. "That is good news ... the pneumonia side of things is slipping down the list of why she is in the condition she is in". They are waiting for her to show up again in Washington state waters so they can zip out on a boat to do a health assessment, said Teri Rowles, marine mammal health and stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.

A veterinarian examined the orca.

"I do stress this is a very thin whale", Haulena said, noting that others in the same condition have not survived.

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"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.

USA and Canadian scientists said they were concerned about the mother's condition and would keep monitoring her but have no plans to help her or remove the calf.

"She appears to be in distress and may not be feeding successfully, so we are asking vessels continue to give her a wide berth", said DFO regional director Andrew Thomson.

A team of whale experts injected an ailing Southern Resident orca with antibiotics Thursday in a rare emergency effort to save her. The whale could then be given live salmon dosed with medication.

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

The last time scientists rescued a killer whale in the region was in 2002 when a northern resident killer whale known as Springer was found swimming alone in Puget Sound.

They also face overlapping threats from toxic pollution and noise and disturbances from boats. In a remarkable demonstration of maternal affection viewed around the world, 30-year-old Tahlequah, went into mourning, sometimes carrying the dead baby calf on her back for hundreds of miles over the course of at least 10 days. The meteorological conditions, the location and the still unknown cause of whale health problems are among the factors taken into account. It was fed live salmon in the pen.

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