Clock ticking for B.C. orca calf rescue, Vancouver Aquarium official says

Click to play video: 'Efforts continue to free trapped orca ‘Our Brave Little Hunter’ in Zeballos, B.C.'
Efforts continue to free trapped orca ‘Our Brave Little Hunter’ in Zeballos, B.C.
A very intelligent young orca continues to outsmart dozens of humans who are trying to get her back out into the open ocean. Emily Lazatin now with an update on the orphaned whale known as 'Our Brave Little Hunter.' – Apr 14, 2024

Rescue efforts for a trapped B.C. orca calf in Vancouver Island waters have been temporarily halted as officials contemplate their options.

The orca calf, named Kwiisahi?is or Brave Little Hunter, has been in a lagoon near the community of Zeballos for three weeks.

It became trapped in the lagoon after she and her mother swam through a narrow channel connected to the ocean.

When the tide went out, her pregnant mother beached on the rocks. She did not survive.

On Friday, officials failed to coerce the orca calf to a shallow part of the lagoon to get her onto a transport vehicle to take her back to open ocean, and ultimately back to her pod.

A Vancouver Aquarium official with the marine mammal research unit, Martin Haulena, said time is ticking for the rescue operation as the calf may be having trouble getting food.

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“She’s probably not at an age where she’s quite hunting on her own, so very concerned,” he said. “There are fish and other animals living in the the rather large lagoon, so it is possible that she’s picking up something but probably not the food types she is supposed to be eating.”

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From viewing the calf in the lagoon, officials said it does appear the calf is breathing well and is diving for extended periods of time — all good signs for her current health. However, her skin is lightening, which may be attributed to a lack of movement and environmental factors.

Officials are now pivoting, thinking of their next course of action after Friday’s failed attempt.

“We were able to get her real close, but she’s catching on to us, so it’s likely our current approach is not going to work,” Paul Cottrell with Fisheries and Oceans Canada said. So we’re going to be planning the next couple of days to take that next step to look at different options. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep going. We’re optimistic we can make this work.”

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— With files from Amy Judd

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