Ailing whale calf thought to be missing has been spotted again
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.
There she is! J50/Scarlet is spotted swimming with her family a day after researchers feared she was dead. She still has an uphill battle but she’s a fighter. NOAA gave her an antibiotic injection today. Video @CWROrcas Ken Balcomb #Q13FOX pic.twitter.com/po5baWotJ6— Simone Del Rosario (@SimoneReports) September 4, 2018
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."
#J50 Update 7 of 8 (9/4): The reversal of fortune on Monday, which began with concern that J50 had gone missing but ended w/ her sighting & successful treatment, brought relief to the team. It also reminds us just how much we rely on teamwork and support on the water. pic.twitter.com/4YcmS7vLUy— NOAAFish_WCRO (@NOAAFish_WCRO) September 5, 2018
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.”
#J50 Update (9/3) Good news! Multiple organizations reporting that J50 has been spotted w/ J Pod in U.S. waters of the Salish Sea this morning. We will continue to assess & treat her according to the priorities outlined by the team of veterinarians & scientists. pic.twitter.com/SvUvFrfuOH— NOAAFish_WCRO (@NOAAFish_WCRO) September 3, 2018
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.