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

Wonderful characters, costumes and sets in Beauty and the Beast

Chemainus Secondary School drama production delightful

Trying to get the dirt on particulate matter

Film deposits noticeable around Chemainus year-round

Chemainus sea walk plans get a boost

North Cowichan to sign right-of-way agreements with VIHA

Yearning for Learning

Penelakut Island Learning Centre’s Class of 19 graduates and their families celebrate

Coroner’s report confirms suicide in Kilmer case

2018 disappearance sparked massive search

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Ginger Goodwin’s Cumberland cemetery grave desecrated

Just days before the Miners Memorial weekend, Ginger Goodwin’s grave has been… Continue reading

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

Most Read