The future of our Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population is in jeopardy more than ever before. The plight of these whales has been highlighted in the media in recent weeks with the devastating loss of a female calf born to J pod member J35 “Tahlequah” on July 24th.
Chinook Salmon are in drastic decline in the waters of the Pacific NorthWest. This is having a catastrophic effect on the lives of our endangered Southern Residents, who rely on this specific food type for survival.
Regrettably, J35’s circumstance is not an isolated case. All members of the Southern Resident Killer Whales are struggling. This is particularly true for one individual Killer Whale known as J50 “Scarlet” – a juvenile member of J pod.
Up to date medical examinations have revealed that Scarlet has lost approximately 20% of her body weight within one-year timeframe. In a desperate attempt to save this young Killer Whale the federal government of Seattle has approved the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide urgent care to the struggling female during this critical time.
A plan has been set in motion to administer antibiotic and rehydration therapy to Scarlet who has been exhibiting signs of infection, emaciation and dehydration. This is a final measure to do whatever can be done to save this sick animal who has been estimated to have only days left to live.
The intended mission by NOAA was slow to proceed due to the absence of J pod in the Seattle/British Columbia waters for some time. This further reflecting the necessity for these endangered Killer Whales to travel further ashore in search of food. This is in direct contrast to preceding decades when the Salish Sea was classified as the primary feeding ground for the Southern Resident Killer Whales.
However, J pod have returned to the area in their continuous hunt for food allowing NOAA to finally embark on their mission. The status at present is that J50 has successfully received antimicrobial therapy via dart administration and the intention now is to deliver live-harvested Chinook Salmon stock directly to the individual Killer Whale while in the wild. This disputed decision has brought with it a lot of conflicting opinions among locals and researchers alike. While some believe intervention to be worrisome in terms of affecting the population’s natural behavior and survival instinct, many others believe this to be Scarlet’s last hope.
Time will tell as to what will come from this incredibly sensitive issue, but it is fair to say that the starving Southern Resident Killer Whales are at last getting the worldwide attention they need to raise awareness on their condition.
Update on AUGUST 13 – Attempts to feed J-50 from a boat has started.