By analyzing whale feces, we can answer important questions about a killer whale’s health.

These findings play a critical role in providing better protections, informing policy, triggering urgent actions, and better understanding all of the factors affecting the survival and recovery of endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

from Detection to Protection.

How the Wild Orca Health Monitoring Program non-invasively protects endangered killer whales.

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The Impact

Revealing a near real-time view of killer whale health means that better policy can be developed to recover and protect endangered killer whales, before it's too late...

Pregnancy

Measuring reproductive hormone levels, we can detect a pregnancy as early as two months from the time of conception. By alerting agencies about pregnant killer whales, dynamic protections can be put in place to ensure pregnant females are not disturbed, for the best chance of a successful birth.

Stress

Measuring the levels of unique stress hormones, we can differentiate between nutritional stress and environmental stress. Placed in the hands of policymakers, these results can be used to inform fisheries decisions and provide feedback regarding the effectiveness of disturbance mitigation efforts.

Contaminants

During periods of nutritional stress, toxicants accumulated in blubber are released and effectively poison killer whales and their calves from the inside out. By understanding the relationships between nutrition, contaminants, and reproductive success, better policies can be developed to recover killer whales.

Prey

By analyzing prey DNA in whale feces, fish scales, and tissue, we can identify a killer whale’s preferred menu items. Genetic analysis also provides the ability to pinpoint the home rivers of these salmon and can be used by fisheries managers to prioritize recovery of key salmon populations.

Scent Detection Dogs

Eba, our scent detection dog, is trained to detect whale feces. Using the superpower of a dog’s nose allows our team to remain further away from the whales than other methods, making this research non-invasive.

Positioned on the bow of the boat, Eba helps us to locate floating killer whale feces through her movements and body language. Once collected, Eba is rewarded for her good work with a few minutes of rigorous play with her favorite toy.

Research Team

Wild Orca’s Science & Research Director, Dr Deborah Giles, is a world-renowned killer whale scientist, and has studied the Southern Resident killer whales since 2005. In 2009 Giles began working with the aid of scent detection dogs in her research with the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology.

Giles now leads Wild Orca’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Health Monitoring Program, collaborating with key experts, along with a team of passionate research assistants, and volunteers who make this important work possible.

We need YOUR help.

When you support Wild Orca’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Health Monitoring Program, you support non-invasive, actionable conservation science with the power to inform efforts critical to the recovery, and protection of this iconic endangered species.

Your donation at work.

$25


5 Collection Beakers

$75


50 Sample Tubes

$194


Lab Analysis for 1 Sample

$779


1 Day of Whale Research

*Costs displayed are approximate.

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