Scientists concerned about endangered orca still pushing body of her calf

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

Teams of whale experts on Thursday were racing out to sea to help an ailing young killer whale, but they don't plan to intervene to help a mother orca in the same critically endangered pod that has been pushing the body of its dead calf for more than two weeks.

The pod's pregnancies haven't produced a viable offspring over the past three years, said the research centre. It's unclear if the whale has been eating, and scientists told the outlet her vast swim could very well be depleting her energy reserves.

"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.

"I certainly think the duration of carrying the calf is unprecedented", said Sheila Thornton, DFO's lead killer whale research scientist. She was seen carrying her dead calf on her head for hours.

Sheila Thornton, lead killer whale research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said they are anxious that the time and energy it spends carrying the body could take away from foraging or feeding.

But the carcass, which Tahlequah has now carried for around 1,000 miles, is starting to deteriorate, and Giles said her mourning may soon come to an end. "I am gravely concerned for the health and mental wellbeing of J35".

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Besides the mother, researchers with Fisheries and Ocean Canada spotted another member of the same pod on Wednesday, 3 ½-year old whale known as J50, who is emaciated.

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

Last week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a video statement on Facebook detailing what his office is doing to protect the orca population in the waters around the state.

This is likely due to a sharp decline in the killer whales' main food source - the Chinook salmon - as well as contamination of the waters that they live in.

"This is a novel undertaking", Hanson said.

"This is something that has struck hearts all over the world", Inslee said.

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