In an update published on Monday, the team wrote that J17 has “improved a little in body condition since December/January.” However, the researchers noted that her breath still smelled awful so they are “cautiously optimistic” she will survive. A foul odour has been detected on other orcas that later died. J17 has a condition called peanut head, a sign of malnutrition. She was seen in December with her pod but was not socializing. The southern resident population was at a 35-year low with 75 orcas left after three deaths in 2018. However, a new calf spotted at the beginning of the year is believed to still be alive.Researchers say a southern resident killer whale, who showed signs of ailing last year, appears to have improved “a little.” The 42-year-old orca was seen in the northern Haro Strait on Friday by researchers with the Center of Whale Research.