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In Photos: Response Teams Try To Save Starving Killer Whale

Young orca

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Scarlet, or J50, is a 3-year-old female killer whale (Orcinus orca) in poor health, but scientists are trying their best to help her. [Read more about the attempt to save this starving orca]

Peanut head

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Scarlet's thin form means there's a dip at the base of her skull, where she's lost fat. Experts call this "peanut head," and it's not a good sign.

Small girl

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Scarlet is small for her age, but in the past month she's looked particularly emaciated.

J Pod

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Scarlet is part of the J pod, one of three small groups of orcas within the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale subpopulation.

Family ties

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Scarlet's mom and sibling are also part of the J pod.

Mother and daughter

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Scarlet seen here, to the left of her mother, J16.

Staying close

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Scarlet seen here swimming with her sibling, J42.

Keep swimming

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Scarlet, or J50, is emaciated and weak and has trouble keeping up with her pod at times.

Following along

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Scarlet follows a member of her pod.

Keeping up

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

Observers noticed that Scarlet was having trouble keeping up with her pod when the current was strong.

Falling behind

Orca rescue

(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries permit #18786)

At one point, Scarlet fell behind members of her pod by almost a half mile (1 kilometer).

Kimberly Hickok
Kimberly Hickok

Kimberly has a bachelor's degree in marine biology from Texas A&M University, a master's degree in biology from Southeastern Louisiana University and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a former reference editor for Live Science and Space.com. Her work has appeared in Inside Science, News from Science, the San Jose Mercury and others. Her favorite stories include those about animals and obscurities. A Texas native, Kim now lives in a California redwood forest.