The scientific community is now concerned about the safety of their methods. Reports from specialists suggest that a killer whale died this spring because of a dart from scientists. They intended to place a tracking device on the great mammal. However, the dart seems to have led to an infection, causing the death of the animal.
Specialists at the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tried to gather more information on the population of killer whales. To do so, they had to track and monitor the animals. In February they found a pod and tried to tag one of the individuals. They knew it as L95, and it was a twenty-years-old orca male.
Scientists remember making several attempts of hitting the killer whale’s fin. They eventually succeeded but little did they know that they would hear from the whale quite soon. In March, the death of a killer whale was reported near the shores of Vancouver Island. L95 still had the dart attached to its fin.
One of the first reactions of biologists at NOAA was to stop using the darts for tagging animals. A recent autopsy showed that the dart allowed a fungus to spread an infection in the whale’s body. The orca was believed to be extremely healthy before the tracking initiative. The report was released earlier this week.
It seems like there was a slip about the way the biologists handled the procedure of shooting the dart at the killer whale. They missed initially, and then they used the same dart for the second shot. They took it out of the water and reintroduced it in the rifle without making sure it was sterile.
L95 was part of a quite small killer whale population. There were eighty-three individuals before its death. Scientists know that now there are only eighty-two left and that they contributed to the situation.
The satellite program was supposed to help researchers track endangered killer whales. Information on their whereabouts and migration habits would help scientists develop proper strategies to protect the animals. The method used with L95 was also used with more than fifty other killer whales, as well as other species two. The dart is supposed to fall off the animals’ body a few weeks or moths after being implanted. No other similar cases occurred.
Officials at NOAA announced that no endangered whale would be submitted to the dart tagging method. They also intend to reanalyze all their methods of tracking animals. They want to make sure that no other action from them will stand as a threat to the species that they want to defend and protect.
Image courtesy of: Flickr