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Story of Springer the Orphaned Orca Whale

Updated on February 9, 2013

Springer Orca Whale A73

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Springer is a young female orca whale that was orphaned and then reunited with a whale pod with the help of the kindness of humans. As of August 2011, Springer is the only known wild orca to have been successful reunited with an orca pod.

Orca whales are more commonly known as killer whales. Their scientific name is Orcinus orca. Baby whales are known as calves.

In July 2000, Springer was first seen with her mother. Summer the next year, the mother and calf spend time with a pod in the Johnstone Strait near Vancouver Island.

However, in January 2002, Springer has been seen swimming alone near Seattle Washington. It is not typical behavior for a calf. And it is presumed that her mother had died.

Springer had skin problems and her breath has an unusual odor which some scientists believe she might be in ketosis which is an indication of starvation. She was underweight for an orca her age. She also has the dangerous habit of coming up to boats for attention.

Scientists gave Springer the identification A73 and debated as to the course of action. Some called for rehabilitation and integration back into a pod of orcas. Other say to let nature take its course.

Rehabilitation of Springer the Orca

Starting in April 2002, Federal government begins plans to move Springer back to Vancouver Island. Springer was captured to take blood samples in order to determine the state of her health. After one week, the results of the blood test came back and found that she had no major medical problems and no abnormal metabolic syndrome.

However, she did have skin problems and infection. Scientist fed her antibiotics by injecting the antibiotics into salmon and feeding her the salmon. Springer can eat up to 60 pounds of salmon a day. She quickly gained 112 pounds and her skin problems improved.

In about a month at research station in Manchester, Washington, Springer has regained her health.

Returning Orca Springer back to Her Pod

After Springer has regained her health. Scientists attempt to transport her back to a pod of orcas in Vancouver Island. This involves a crane hoisting the 1300 pound orca via a sling onto a high-speed catamaran ferry. Veterinarians and crew kept her comfortable and kept her skin moist during the 10 to 12 hour journey as they traveled 400 miles from Seattle to Vancouver.

On 3:30pm July 14 of 2002, Springer was released back in Canadian waters near a pod of orcas. To track her progress, scientists placed onto her an temporary transmitter that was designed to fall off in a couple of days.

Initially, Springer swam close to the group but not within it. Then one orca from within the group swam up to Springer and nudge her in with the group of orcas. This whale becomes Springer's new adopted mother.

On subsequent summers of 2003, 2004, and 2005, Springer has been seen healthy and integral part of the pod community. The reunion of an orphan orca was deemed a success.

This is not the only case of an orphaned orca. Another case, is the story of Luna, an orca identified as L98 that was separated from L pod when he was two years old.

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