Scientists concerned about endangered orca still pushing body of her calf

A baby orca whale was pushed by her mother after being born off the Canada coast near Victoria British Columbia. The new orca died soon after being born and was seen on Tuesday

Researchers took breath samples, and a drone flown above the whales Wednesday showed that J50 is much skinnier and her body condition has gotten worse.

"The connections between these animals are incredibly strong", said Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale scientist with Fisheries and Ocean Canada. As its body fell into the water, the mother hauled it to the surface and began carrying it in on her nose what some scientists call a mourning ritual.

It's reportedly not uncommon for killer whales to carry their dead calves for a week or so.

"I am absolutely shocked and heartbroken", Deborah Giles, research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca told The Seattle Times.

Attention turned to J50 after another calf in her pod died on July 24.

NOAA Fisheries says an worldwide team reached the 3½-year-old orca known as J50 Thursday in the waters near Washington state's San Juan Island.

Now, yet another member of the highly endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales - a four-year-old female known by researchers as J50 - is seriously at risk of dying. "I'm not even sure we would be successful". In addition, since J35 has just given birth, she "may have extra lipid stores built up" that were preparing her body for nursing.

Hanson said the American team required fairly calm weather in order to get close enough to J50 to collect a breath sample.

Tahlequah is part of the Southern Resident population which the NOAA Fisheries says is critically endangered.

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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. The situation is most certainly urgent, especially considering that this sick orca is one of the mere 75 individuals of her kind left on Earth.

They also observed this touching behaviour in one pod of whales with the corpse of a male adult who may have died after a fight.

As Tahlequah carries her deceased calf for a 17th straight day, and concerns mount about her health, taking the calf away is not an option because of the tight bond between Tahlequah and the rest of the pod to her baby - dead or alive, experts say.

"The big question is, can we craft public policy that can make a difference in the future of the orca, and by doing so make a positive difference in how we live in Puget Sound", Purce said in an interview Monday.

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.

The carcass is "surprisingly intact", she said.

"We are ready to go", Hanson said.

If you'd like to be a part of the solution to saving these handsome whales, one easy step you can take is to reduce or completely do away with your personal consumption of seafood.

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