Veterinarian says sickly endangered orca J50 is the thinnest killer whale he's ever seen

An international team of scientists trying to save an ailing Southern Resident Killer Whale says her last hope may be capture and treatment in a sea pen as her condition continues to deteriorate.

But Chris Yates, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says preparations are being made to rescue J50 if she becomes separated from her pod, or strands alive -- and capture becomes the only alternative:

"All of our focus and effort would be to provide her medical care with the goal of her returning to the wild to contribute to the recovery of Southern Resident Killer Whales."

Dr. Joe Gaydos, with the SeaDoc Society Program at U.C. Davis, was the last veterinarian to see J50 on September 7th. He says despite efforts to treat her for perceived illnesses, she is now the thinnest killer whale he has ever seen.

"But without making any further steps, getting our hands on her, looking at ultrasound, endoscopy, blood work, things like that, it's really difficult for us to know -- it's impossible for us to know what's going on, what sort of treatment she would need."

NOAA is clear that if a rescue capture is made necessary,  it would only be to treat her, not to keep her.  Returning her to the wild to contribute to the recovery of Southern Resident Killer Whale population -- now at just 75 --  would be the prime objective.

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