She is underweight and lethargic with periods of inactivity, and does not appear to be feeding.
As Tahlequah carries her deceased calf for a 17th straight day, and concerns mount about her health, taking the calf away is not an option because of the tight bond between Tahlequah and the rest of the pod to her baby - dead or alive, experts say.
When conditions were right, the team of American and Canadian biologists and vets didn't hesitate. "So we basically have to get within five metres of the whale", Hanson said. What would be unique is giving the orca medication through live fish, Rowles said.
Researchers take breath samples of the orca known as J50 on July 21, 2018.
NOAA Fisheries says the worldwide team reached the 3½-year-old orca in the waters near Washington state's San Juan Island.
Those samples have been sent for analysis, specifically for harmful bacteria and fungi from the airway.
"While we wait for the results, we are treating what is treatable", said Haulena. She's probably lost two more in the past decade.
The next step is to determine whether the teams will move forward with feeding J50, who is "very skinny and small".
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Scientists on both sides of the border have become increasingly concerned about J50's emaciated state in recent weeks and fear she could die, dealing yet another blow to the declining population of 75 southern resident killer whales.
Brad Hanson of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says hard conditions have prevented the teams from collecting breath and fecal samples but they are hoping weather conditions improve by Sunday.
University of Washington scientist Deborah Giles said she was heartbroken for what is happening with the mom and child. She rejoined her group.
"The world is watching, and the world is not going to let status quo continue", she said.
This is the latest troubling sign for a population already at its lowest in more than three decades.
DFO is asking that boaters and whale watchers maintain a 500-metre buffer zone around J50. By doing so, you will help ensure that there are plenty of fish in the sea for the animals who actually need to eat these aquatic creatures to survive (unlike us). "That will be to the benefit of this animal".
A federally organized response team was able to administer antibiotics to the ailing, "very skinny" 3-year-old orca J50 in USA waters near San Juan Island on Thursday, NOAA announced Thursday night.
Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries, says researchers on Wednesday spotted the 20-year-old whale, known as J35 - or Tahlequah, still carrying her dead young off the tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.