An orphaned killer whale that was found off the coast of Washington state sick and starving nearly a decade ago has been spotted in B.C. healthy and swimming closely with her pod.

Lance Barrett-Lennard, head of whale and dolphin research at the Vancouver Aquarium, told that the baby killer whale, known as Springer, was found more than eight years ago alone, starving and struggling to survive after her mother died.

"She was in very poor condition -- it was astonishing she was still alive. Her skin was very bad and she was emaciated and dehydrated," he said.

Springer was fed salmon for a month during her remarkable rehabilitation, which was funded by The B.C. Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program.

After regaining strength she was transported back to an ocean pen in B.C. where researchers waited for her family pod to swim by.

"Her pod swam by the very first night she was there and they were calling to each other. The whales waited for her until we released her in the morning," Barrett-Lennard said. "She swam out to them in a very excited state but the whales rejected her."

Springer followed her pod at a distance for a couple days until an adult female cousin of hers from a different group took her under her fin.

"The female started treating her like her own calf and she did well." Barrett-Lennard said.

This year Springer turned 10 years old and continues to be a remarkable success story for the adoption program, which funds groundbreaking research in an effort to protect wild killer whales and their habitat.

Researchers spotted Springer off the coast of Vancouver Island, B.C. in August.

"She looked great. I didn't even recognize her right away because she was bigger and well socialized and swimming closely with her group," Barrett-Lennard said. "It's so gratifying and to go out and see her. I would have given her 25% odds of surviving."

The Vancouver Aquarium is encouraging people to adopt a whale in order to help whales like Springer. Adoption packages include an adoption certificate, biography, picture, CD of B.C.'s killer whale sounds and updates on how your whale is doing.

Barrett-Lennard says that adopting a whale makes a great gift for the holiday season.

To adopt a whale or learn more -- visit their website.