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

B.C. to move salmon farms out of coastal migration route

Broughton Archipelago plan set to start in spring of 2019

New wind warning for most of Vancouver Island

Forecasters are calling for strong winds up to 90km/h for some areas

Mount Washington opening for winter season this weekend

The resort’s original opening day was delayed due to lack of snow

Food Bank teams up with Ucluelet RCMP to spread holiday spirit

“We feel very well supported by the community.”

Baby, it’s nasty outside: wind and rain will continue across Vancouver Island

Police warn drivers and pedestrians to use precaution during expected rain and winds

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Woman guilty of impaired driving in death of Vancouver Island pedestrian

Man in his 70s killed in 2016 Courtenay multi-vehicle incident

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Most Read