February 04, 2019

Ailing whale calf thought to be missing has been spotted again

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The missing youngster has been ill for a few weeks, and scientists are concerned that she will not survive if they cannot administer medication to her on a regular basis. 

Biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been monitoring J50, or Scarlet, a three-year-old Orca who is part of the endangered Southern Resident off the coast of southern Canada and Washington state.

The calf has been sick recently, and when she suddenly seemingly disappeared on September 3, experts worried that she had died. 

Biologists monitoring the pod have taken particular interest in J50 due to the fact that she is the last calf to be born into the pod to survive infancy, and the pod's population has dwindled to a three-decade low. 



Fortunately, she has since been located with her pod, although she certainly isn't out of the woods yet with regards to her health. 

Scientists with the NOAA were also able to administer antibiotics to her, but are still debating the most effective way to nurse her back to full health, with one option involving medication and nutrition "delivered in a live Chinook salmon."


Despite their relief at finding her, experts are still very cautious about showing any optimism regarding her ability to recover from her ailment. 

"She's very, very sick. And I don't want to take away from that. Most whales in her condition do not survive," Shari Tarantino of the Orca Conservancy said. "The fact that she is still foraging is huge. If we can get her medication and get her on her way, hopefully she should recover."


Speaking on her sudden disappearance, Howard Garrett with the Orca Network shared the team's devastation when they realized she was not with her pod. 

“We were all heartbroken when we heard J50 had been lost, not found. But it was expected. It was like someone with a terminal illness essentially who finally passed. But then heartened when suddenly the news came in she was seen again.”

The team has been trying to cure J50's illness for about a month already, and were concerned when she reappeared very weak and skinny. 

The pod drew international attention some weeks back when another whale, J35, also known as Tahlequah, was spotted carrying her dead calf around with her for over a fortnight.