Killer whale J50 is shown off the coast of Washington State in this August 12, 2018 handout photo. An ailing killer whale was last sighted off Washington state on Saturday and biologists say she was still struggling. (NOAA Fisheries, Katy Foster)

Sick killer whale J50 diagnosed with parasitic worms

Scientists learn more in their quest to help the southern resident orca, which swims off B.C.’s coast

U.S. and Canadian scientists have moved one step closer to curing one of the last 75 southern resident killer whales that travel along B.C.’s coastline.

In an update Thursday night, the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said J50, a four-year-old orca, has been suffering from parasitic worms.

That’s based off a fecal sample that scientists were able to collect Aug. 17 from J50’s mother, J16.

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“Since J16 catches fish that she then shares with J50, the veterinary team prioritized treating J50 with a dewormer, following antibiotics,” the group said.

J50 is known to be suffering from “peanut head,” a condition that has caused her to become emaciated and lethargic. Since becoming a priority for scientists last month, she has been shot with darts carrying two doses of antibiotics, including one from B.C. marine biologist Dr. Martin Haulena, the Vancouver Aquarium’s veterinarian.

Seattle-based scientists were also able to collect fecal samples from J27, an adult male in the J Pod. Although the sample yielded little DNA, researchers said they are adapting their analysis to see what information they can learn.


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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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