Featured Image Credit: NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center National Science Foundation
By: Sarah Sharkey
It is no secret that the Southern Resident killer whale population is suffering. In fact, the dwindling pod of orcas seems to be slowly starving to death. These whales rely heavily on Chinook salmon as their primary food source. As salmon populations decline, the killer whales have been suffering as well.
Researchers and activists are starting to question if they should be doing more to save these whales. Should humans be feeding starving animals with medicated live salmon? Would these actions be justifiable because humans are closely connected to the sources of their demise? Would that harm the integrity of the wild nature of these animals? If we start doing this, when do we stop? The debate is intense around this delicate issue.
The debate kicked off after the death of Scarlet, a four-year-old whale last year. It was clear that Scarlet was starving from a distance, and veterinarians were attempting to analyze her body for ailments from afar. Experts even attempted to save her by feeding her live salmon, but it was not successful. She eventually wasted away without more direct human intervention.
A different story unfolded almost 16 years ago surrounding a whale named Springer. She was an orphaned whale rescued in Puget Sound and returned to distant relatives in Canada that started with close human connections and direct human intervention. Springer is living happily in the British Columbia area while Scarlet has died.
It is difficult to determine how far human intervention should go. But as this population of whales continues to lose weight and move closer towards extinction, we are forced to debate the pros and cons of any intervention. No consensus has been reached, but the debate will continue in full swing for the foreseeable future.
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