Teams heading out to help ailing Northwest orca

Katy Foster  NOAA Fisheries

The team of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologists and vets was also able to take blow samples from J50 exhaling. Since then she swam while she carried her dead calf, which means she had been doing so for more than half a month now.

Seventy five per cent of the incidents were of adult females looking after their dead calf, with some of them carrying decomposing bodies for up to a week.

J35 was first spotted July 24 carrying the calf on her nose and in her mouth.

After great white shark carcasses started washing ashore in South Africa, researchers pointed the finger at an unlikely predator: killer whales.

Brad Hanson, a USA research biologist, said the whales were too far out to sea previously for the treatment and assessment team to reach them from Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands.

They spotted J35 while searching for another of the remaining 75 southern resident killer whales, labelled an endangered species in both Canada and the United States.

But ultimately, even if biologists are successful in bringing this whale back to a healthy state while keeping it wild, it still won't fix what is causing orcas to become sick in the first place: an extreme lack of Chinook salmon, their main food source, largely as a result of - you guessed it - overfishing, creation of dams, and habitat degradation caused by humans! In addition, since J35 has just given birth, she "may have extra lipid stores built up" that were preparing her body for nursing.

In light of this, top veterinarians and whale experts are desperately working to come up with a way to restore this gentle giant's health as soon as possible.

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This is the latest troubling sign for a population already at its lowest in more than three decades.

According to Dr Giles, the other members of the family knew J35 was pregnant due to their sonar, which the animals also use to communicate with one another.

"I think that's one of the things that's most worrisome to me".

They are anxious she isn't getting enough time to forage for food. "Is that not only is she not improving, it looks like she's deteriorating over the period of time when we would expect to see the condition improve".

Another orca in the critically endangered group of killer whales has pushed her dead calf for more than two weeks, raising concerns about her health.

A medical team was speeding to Race Rocks, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles, as of 1 p.m., to see if the conditions are right to attempt to help her. Her mother, however, was not ready to let go.

University of Washington scientist Deborah Giles said she was heartbroken for what is happening with the mom and child. Researchers with the Whale Sanctuary Project took a sample of the fish scales so they can later genetically track whether the whales consume that fish, while other crews with the Lummi tribe scooped the salmon out of a large bin and sent it into the water.

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