Grieving orca still swimming with her dead calf off US peninsula

Scarlet is among a group of endangered rapidly dwindling Southern Resident killer whales that frequent the Pacific Northwest

Scarlet is among a group of endangered rapidly dwindling Southern Resident killer whales that frequent the Pacific Northwest

"Removing the calf would be a very, very hard decision, and obviously we would have to take many factors into consideration, so that's now not on the table", she said.

For now, researchers and veterinarians working to treat J50 will continue to monitor J35, looking closely at her for skin lesions, any changes in the way she swims or surfaces or major changes in her breath, which could indicate that she is metabolizing lipids.

On a call Thursday morning, a team of scientists say it's possible that the mother's body, primed for lactation, could be sustaining her. Dolphin and whale fat is packed with energy. She was last seen off the northwest tip of Washington state.

The orca's plight represents a larger problem: The Southern Resident killer whale population, to which J35 belongs, has not had a successful birth in years.

Scientists are also anxious about another member of the endangered orcas.

The behaviour often involved one or more individuals attending to the deceased.

Giles said the spotlight on the animals, while itself frightful news, has already led to skyrocketing worry about their plight.

'So, they must be grieving, too, ' she said.

However, as much as people want to intervene on the scene, scientists suggest leaving the mom orca and her dead calf alone.

The group will prioritize short-term and long-term actions, many of which are certain to focus on recovering the prized salmon that the fish-eating whales like to eat. 16 days later, the killer whale still hasn't given up on her baby.

It's also not only a matter of weather; the whales themselves have to be in the right position and behavior to attempt a medical intervention.

J-50 is part of a family group known as J-pod, which also includes the mother orca who has gained worldwide attention for carrying her dead newborn calf for more than two weeks, in an apparent display of mourning.

"This is completely unprecedented, and honestly your guess is as good as ours as far as what is going on here", Deborah Giles, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology, said in a phone interview. It was hearing initial recommendations focused on three main threats to the orcas: lack of food, toxic contamination and boat noise and disturbance.

"We've been saying it for 20 years, the humans who have been studying these animals", Giles said, before noting that now "the animals themselves in the last three weeks, it's nearly like they've taken the torch". It could be that the animal is starving, or some other disease process is resulting in them not wanting to eat, Dr Hanson said.

"Obviously the connection they've formed with this calf is substantial and it's something that we do have to take into account", he said. That data has documented orcas that declined and then disappeared. 'We have to address the issue of salmon restoration, wild salmon particularly, ' Balcomb said. A report is due later this year.

They are anxious she isn't getting enough time to forage for food.

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