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

Smoking pot? Your dentist wants to know

Vancouver dentist and cannabis researcher shares oral health concerns of marijuana

Wait times for ICBC road tests increase in Victoria

Increase has no connection with tests becoming more challenging: ICBC

Fall-ing for unseasonably warm weather in Victoria

Environment Canada forecast calls for sunshine through weekend

Hundreds of thousands of British Columbians to take part in earthquake drill

The B.C.-wide, one-and-a-half-minute drill will be held Thursday

Campers near Saanich municipal hall await response from transportation ministry

MOTI expected to decide Monday when campers need to leave

Campers near Saanich municipal hall await response from transportation ministry

MOTI expected to decide Monday when campers need to leave

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Prince Harry and Meghan start Aussie tour with baby gifts

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on a 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

EU’s Barnier hopes Brexit deal possible in ‘coming weeks’

Britain is set to leave the European Union in March, but a Brexit agreement must be sealed in coming weeks to leave enough time for relevant parliaments to ratify it.

Earth samples show dust from B.C. pipeline blast not a health threat: Enbridge

Enbridge says earth sampling shows mineral and metal composition is well below provincial and federal standards for urban and residential areas.

Postal services ready for looming wave of legal cannabis deliveries

Legal cannabis is set to usher in a wave of high-value, age-restricted parcels in the mail system, and delivery companies say they’re ready.

Caution urged after cougar sighting in Nanaimo

Weekend encounter at Long Lake the most recent in in area

Mega Millions prize of $654M is nation’s 4th-largest

No one has won the U.S. jackpot in almost three months

Most Read