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Scientists Try to Reunite Lost Whale with Family - 2002-07-14

An orphaned killer whale that strayed into Puget Sound off the Northwest coast of the United States has been successfully moved over 800 kilometers to Canadian waters. Scientists are hoping to reunite the sea mammal with her family.

Springer the killer whale is now resting comfortably in her native waters in an outdoor pen near Telegraph Cove on northern Vancouver Island.

Her 800 kilometer journey began at dawn near Seattle, in Washington state. The two-year-old whale was loaded in a special holding tank on the back of a high-speed catamaran. During the trip, scientists continuously sprayed cold water on her to regulate her body temperature.

American and Canadian scientists are hoping that the 560-kilogram Orca will reunite with her family group by communicating through their unique acoustical vocal patterns. If this is successful, she will then be released.

The Vancouver Aquarium has confirmed that a group of direct relatives, most likely including her grandmother and aunt, have been spotted in the area of Johnstone Strait, off Vancouver Island. It is the first time scientists have attempted to reunite a whale with its family in the wild.

Springer was captured June 13 in Puget Sound near Seattle in Washington state. Orca experts noted the disappearance and likely death of Springer's mother last year, and believed the orphaned whale wandered south to Seattle because she was unable to keep up with the rest of the group.

Until the most recent move, she was housed in an outdoor facility where she received medical treatment.

The Vancouver Aquarium is hoping donations will help recover the $330,000 cost of returning Springer to the wild.