The starving orca J 50 (Scarlet) has been given a second dose of antibiotics

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J 50 and her mother, J 16                                                                                Photo Credit: Nomad Expeditons via NOAA

After a worrisome two day period in which the Southern Resident orca J 50 (Scarlet) couldn’t be located, Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena, was able to dart her with a second dose of antibiotics.

NOAA spokesman, Michael Milstein, stated:

While there was some concern that the first dart in early August did not deliver the full dose, Dr Haulena believes the dart yesterday did deliver most of the dose this time. They did not get an opportunity for a second dart with the dewormer, and that remains the next priority in the treatment.

The team noticed that while J50 remains severely emaciated, she also remains very active and was staying tight with her mother, J16, and diving just as healthy whales do. So she continues to defy the odds.

The whales appeared to be moving into Canadian waters last night, so it will depend on where they are, what vessels are available, and what conditions are like, in terms of whether they can deliver a second dart with dewormer today.”

We all know J50 as tough and tenacious. One of the last sightings by Department of Fisheries and Ocean  on Thursday (8/30) reported that her mother J16 (Slick) and J26 (Mike), her brother, were lagging behind most of J Pod by about three nautical miles, and J50 was lagging about a half-mile behind them. Sometimes she got closer, but she looked to be struggling to keep up.
We and our many partners are hopeful that the additional efforts to follow up on sightings and take advantage of all the organizations on the water today will give us more information about J50 and J Pod.

Dr. Martin Haulena, Dr. Brad Hanson, and Trevor Foster prepare to administer an injection of antibiotics to J50 (Photo: Katy Foster) (Photo is from the first injection attempt).

“I recall J15* long ago following miles behind the pod for days before finally disappearing” ,said the Center for Whale Research (CWR) senior scientist, Ken Balcomb . “It is amazing that she has lasted so long in the condition we saw her at the beginning of summer.
This is what extinction looks like when survival is threatened for all by food deprivation. The Southern Resident killer whales scarce presence in the Salish Sea is another indication that sufficient food is not available for them here, or along the coast. Natural salmon runs must be restored. Chief Seattle was right: ‘All things are connected.’”
*J15 was the first calf that Ken assigned a number to when he began his studies 43 years ago. The calf was born in 1975 and died in 1981. His sister, J 19 (Shachi), is now a grandmother to J 51 (Nova) – born around the same time as J 50.
NOAA will release more information on the successful second injection later today.

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