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Scarlet, the struggling orca, now presumed dead

Scarlet, or J50, a struggling and emaciated 3-year-old orca (<em>Orcinus orca</em>), is now presumed dead.

(Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries no permit. 18786-03)

After a remarkable month-long cooperative effort to save a young, sick, killer whale (Orcinus orca) with the name Scarlet, or J50, authorities now assume that the animal is dead, because they have not been spotted in more than two weeks, King 5 News reported.

Scarlet is the death means the sub-population of endangered southern resident orcas now contains only 74 persons, of 98 persons in 1995, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Scarlet is a 3-year-old woman who was part of the J-pod, one of three small groups of killer whales (also called orcas) within the southern resident killer whale subpopulation. [Photos: Response Teams are Trying to Save from Hungry killer whale]

The J-pod also contains J35, or Tahlequah, a female whose calf died a half hour after it was born on the 24th of July. Biologists looked at the grieving mother carrying her dead calf around for hundreds of miles and an unprecedented 17 days.

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Since the beginning of August, the team of biologists and veterinarians in Washington and Canada have worked together closely follow Scarlet health. When the weather permitted, the team collected breath and fecal samples of Scarlet and antibiotics administered by means of a dart.

As part of the rescue operation of fishermen with the Lummi Nation, a native american tribe in western Washington, tried to feed Scarlet fresh salmon by supplying the live fish through a tube placed in the water and pointed in her general direction. They are not sure if Scarlet chowed down on an easy prey, but even if she did, her health began to decline.

On Sept. 12, NOAA announced that it is formulating a plan to capture the Scarlet and bring her into the prison for rehabilitation. But Scarlet disappeared before the recording can be performed.

NOAA launched an intense search, with the help of resources from the air, the land and the sea with the help of the U. S. Coast Guard, the Center for Whale Research and the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, among others. But now, after more than two weeks of a thorough search, Scarlet has not yet been found, NOAA reported.

Experts now have little choice but to assume that the young orca’s death. And because she was so thin and had very little fat, her body probably sank to the seabed, Lynne Barre, a biologist with NOAA, told Kiro 7.

Scarlet’s death has inspired renewed efforts to conserve this dwindling population of killer whales. Dr. Joe Gaydos, a veterinarian with the University of California, Davis, Wildlife Health Center, which was part of the Scarlet rescue team, is now compiling an electronic medical database for members of Scarlet’s family, with the hope that it might help in the diagnosis of future complaints, reported King 5 News.

The orca deaths also have a new impulse petitions to remove the dams in an attempt to revive salmon and fill the orca’s main food source, The Seattle Times reported. And at the end of last week, U.s. and Canadian negotiators have agreed to extend the Pacific Salmon Treaty, which governs salmon harvest and research in the Pacific Northwest region, National Fisherman reported.

Various non-profit wildlife and environmental groups in the northwest of Washington organized a commemoration, which was held last Friday (Sept. 21) in honor of both Scarlet and Tahlequah’s calf. The invitation led with the message, “First, we mourn, we organize.”

Original article on Live Science.

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