Scientists give ailing killer whale shot of antibiotics

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

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

The teams were, however, racing out to sea to help another ailing young killer whale in the same critically endangered pod.

Another female orca from the group that spends time in U.S. Northwest waters attracted global attention as the grieving animal tried to keep her dead baby afloat.

Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in the United States, said removing the calf, in order to encourage the whale to forage, is not an option.

The experimental, emergency plan to save J50 requires scientists to nail down her ailments through breath and fecal samples, then administer long-lasting antibiotics by either pole-mounted syringe or dart.

That plan may include dumping live salmon doused with antibiotics in front of the whale, hoping she'll eat them. "That is good news ... the pneumonia side of things is slipping down the list of why she is in the condition she is in". NOAA would apply for the feeding permit if conditions are right, said Lynne Barre, NOAA Fisheries' recovery coordinator for the whales.

Milstein said that veterinarian Marty Haulena from the Vancouver Aquarium got a thorough look at J50 and the team obtained a breath sample that will help assess any infection.

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The carcass is "surprisingly intact", she said.

"We have obvious concerns about the displacement of her behavior away from foraging and feeding, to carrying the calf, and concerns over the length of time of this behavior as it continues, and the possibility of decreasing her ability to forage effectively", Thornton said. He said the whale is incredibly skinny but was swimming well and there were no obvious signs of abnormality with her skin.

U.S. 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. The orca would initially get just a few fish to see whether she takes it and how she and members of her pod respond before deciding whether to give her salmon dosed with medication, officials have said.

The fish-eating orcas that frequent the inland waters of Washington state are down to 75 animals, and there hasn't been a successful birth since 2015.

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

The last time scientists rescued a killer whale in the region was in 2002, when they rehabilitated an orca known as Springer who was found alone.

University of Washington scientist Deborah Giles said she was heartbroken for what is happening with the mom and child. The Center for Whale Researchers confirmed that she was still seen pushing the now-deteriorating corpse of her newborn calf.

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