Scientists said that they might need to capture and treat a sick orca that was spotted swimming with its pod in the Pacific Northwest.
Capturing An Orca
J50, a 4-year-old orca, has been alarmingly losing weight and growing weaker for the past few weeks. Veterinarians from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA think that they have exhausted all possible ways to treat the sick orca from afar and it is time to intervene by capturing the marine mammal.
"We don't intend to intervene while she's with her family. If we are presented with a situation where a rescue is the only viable alternative, we will rescue her," stated Chris Yates, NOAA assistant regional administrator.
However, the agency said that they will only intervene and capture the sick orca if it becomes separated from its pod. Officials would not want to risk harming the rest of the tightly knit group. Orcas are considered critically endangered and approximately, only a thousand of them exist.
Sick Orca In Need Of Immediate Help
NOAA, with the help of partner organizations, has been making efforts to treat the ailing marine mammal. Experts have collected breath and fecal samples from the pod and confirmed that the orca has a parasite that can penetrate its stomach lining and introduce bacterial infection to the bloodstream.
As a response, the agency administered deworming and antibiotics remotely by using a dart. The team monitoring the situation also tried feeding J50 by releasing live fist where the pod has been spotted.
"This is a very sick whale," pointed out wildlife veterinarian Joe Gaydos, SeaDoc Society director. "We don't think she has long."
On Twitter, NOAA explained that as soon as J50 gets separated from its pod and captured, they will perform a physical examination and determine a rapid treatment it needs to get back to normal.
The orca might be rehabilitated to improve its health if the scientists deem it necessary. However, as soon as it is healed, J50 will be released back to the water and rejoin its pod.
#J50 Update 4 of 5: The overriding priority of rescue is to evaluate, treat, & rehabilitate J50 to give her the greatest chance of survival while ensuring her return & reunification w/ her family as soon as possible. pic.twitter.com/3BkPzwXest — NOAAFish_WCRO (@NOAAFish_WCRO) September 12, 2018
Images taken of the pod on Monday showed that J50's health has further deteriorated over the past few weeks. It has noticeably lost weight compared to last year. Its mom, J16, has also shown signs of declining health which, experts believe, might be caused by having to share its food with its sick child.
J50 has already gained the sympathy of civilians who are asking authorities to do whatever they can to save the sick orca.
Earlier this year, another orca from the same pod, J35, made headlines when it was spotted carrying its dead newborn calf above the water as a sign of mourning. J35 held its child on its nose for over two weeks.