J50 swimming with her mom J13. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association)

Emaciated orca gets first treatment after being spotted in B.C. waters

Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Marty Haulena got a thorough look at the young orca

Quite worrisome.

That’s the way a B.C. biologist described his initial thoughts after meeting J50, an emaciated and endangered killer whale American and Canadian responders are racing to keep alive.

Vancouver Aquarium’s Dr. Marty Haulena was the first to get a thorough look at the four-year-old orca on Thursday since scientists determined she suffers from “peanut head syndrome,” which causes her to have a smaller head, usually because of malnourishment.

“I will say, having not laid eyes on her personally before, it was dramatic how thin she is,” Dr. Haulena said in an update on Friday. “It struck me very dramatically. She’s just a very, very skinny whale.”

READ MORE: Scientists probe ‘next steps’ after emaciated orca finally spotted in B.C. waters

Dr. Haulena said he and a team of researchers followed J50, also known as Scarlet, and the rest of her pod for six hours from the coast of Vancouver Island to near San Juan Island.

Once near calmer waters off Washington State, staff with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were able to obtain a breath sample to assess for infection, and give her antibiotics through a dart.

Dr. Haulena said it’s not likely the whale is suffering from respiratory disease, pneumonia or any skin abnormalities, adding photos will be further analyzed to rule out other conditions.

He recommended biologists focus on her feeding and foraging habits and aim to gather a fecal sample.

Other next steps include to determine whether to proceed with a trial feeding – a first-of-its-kind plan that has gained international attention – that would involve feeding the whale with chinook salmon filled with antibiotics.

That remains under review by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“If further actions are needed, our decision will be evidence-based and we will be ready to respond quickly should the intervention need to occur in Canadian waters,” DFO communications officer Lauren Sankey said.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Okanagan RCMP look for owners of various keys located during arrest

RCMP seek to reunite the owners of various keys found at the arrest of suspects in a stolen vehicle.

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Summerland ready for marijuana sales

Zoning allows retail sales in downtown and at shopping centre

Summerland trustee candidate promises committee on school closures

Dave Stathers says closure of one school would affect all within Summerland

Summerland housing issues raised at candidate forum

High housing costs, low vacancy rates and lack of affordable housing addressed

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

VOTE: Nature in Focus reader’s choice photo contest

The Penticton Western News Reader’s Choice photo contest

Who is running in Summerland’s election?

Introducing you to the candidates asking for your vote on Oct. 20

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

BC Ferries begins taking debit in two-month pilot project

Company is giving customers option to use Interac on two-month trial on select vessels

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Only 40% of B.C. car dealerships have electric cars available: report

Researchers found buyers frustrated at the lack of options

Most Read