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Orphan whale to go home

Springer weighs 545 kgs (1,200 pounds) and eats 40 kg (80 pounds) of fish a day  

VANCOUVER, Canada -- In an unprecedented attempt, the National Marine Fisheries will try to reunite a baby killer whale found swimming alone in Puget Sound with its pod in Canadian waters.

The female orca, dubbed Springer, will be loaded on to a boat on Friday and transported to an area near Telegraph Cove, British Columbia -- about 375 km (250 miles) northwest of Vancouver.

If successful, it would mark the first time an orca had been reintroduced to its pod, but officials said there was no assurance the whale would be able to rejoin her family after having been separated for several months.

Vancouver Aquarium director John Nightingale told Reuters: "This is ground-breaking ... This is going to result in a great deal of interest in the general public but among scientists as well."

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Whale information 

The one-ton whale was discovered in January off the Vashon Island ferry dock in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington. Scientists who track the pod closely determined her mother had died recently.

She was suffering from health problems including a skin rash, bad breath and worms that had reduced her appetite.

Worried she would die or be injured in Washington state's busy waterway, United States officials agreed to capture her in May so she could be treated and returned to Canada -- where she will be placed in a pen until her family pod arrives.

Officials said they did not know how long they will keep her in the pen, but said she would be released before the end of summer, when British Columbia's killer whales return to the deeper waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Biologists hope they can release Springer when her closest relatives are in the area because they share the same distinctive whale dialect, but said they may have to resort to introducing her to more distant relatives.

Senior whale expert, Lance Barrett-Lennard, at the Vancouver Aquarium, which is overseeing the transfer, told the news agency: "We will consider this a success if she lives her life out in the wild, even if she lived independently."

At 18 months to two years of age, Springer is considered a baby among whales, for whom a life span of 80 years is not unusual.

CNN's Kristin Fraser contributed to this report




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