Scientists believe that chronic malnutrition throughout J-35’s pregnancy is likely the cause of the calf’s inability to survive. People from around the world have watched in horror as J-35 carried her deceased infant on her head for at least 17 days and for over 1,000 miles as she grieved for her lost daughter. She struggled to keep the calf through rough seas and strong currents. Her family stayed by her side, helping her retrieve the body when it would sink below the surface.
Another Southern Resident is suffering so severely from malnutrition, scientists have put her on “death watch”. Three and a half year old J-50 or Scarlet has suffered so intensely from malnutrition that she is the size of a one year old and her skull bones are visible under her skin. She has been seen labouring behind her family in strong tides and has actually been witnessed moving backwards as her family passed by her. She has a very strong will to survive and to everyone’s surprise- she is occasionally seen breaching and being playful. It is clear this little whale wants to live, but she needs more food in order for that to a possibility.
American scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) injected Scarlet with antibiotics using a dart on August 9th and veterinarian Marty Haulena from the Vancouver Aquarium obtained breath samples from her to assess whether she has an infection. Fecal samples have also been collected and initial test results show that Scarlet may be suffering from nematodes (roundworms) which can penetrate the lining of the stomach and introduce a bacterial infection to the bloodstream or bore into internal organs. It is not known if the sample for sure came from Scarlet, but NOAA plans to try to administer a deworming treatment along with antibiotics to Scarlet by feeding her Chinook salmon injected with the treatment if she is present in American waters.
In an unprecedented move, American scientists with support from the Lummi First Nation attempted to feed J-50 Chinook salmon released from a boat. It is not known if she or any other members of her family caught the fish. Further attempts to feed the whales if they are once again found in American waters is being considered.