Name an orca calf

April 29, 2017

Orca female SN200 with young calf - Photo: Orca Guardians Iceland

The calf was first spotted on 20 November along the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, in Iceland, and is the latest offspring of female SN200 (West Iceland ID number), known in Scotland as 012.

The group of orcas spends the winter in Icelandic waters, while migrating south to Shetland and Scotland in the spring and summer.

In the past, both countries ran separate naming programs resulting in animals that travel between the two countries having two different names, often resulting in confusion when sightings were reported.

The naming contest has been organised by Orca Guardians Iceland, a non-profit killer whale research and conservation organisation based in West Iceland.

The contest will start on the 4 May on Orca Guardians Iceland’s Facebook page.

Firstly, the public is invited to send in naming suggestions for the calf. Four of these will be selected by an international panel of judges, then the public will have the opportunity to vote on four names and select their favourite, which will then be added to the West Iceland ID catalogue.

The judges come from the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Project, Caithness Sea Watching/Orca Watch, Shetland Wildlife, and Orca Guardians Iceland. The contest runs until 19 May.

Hugh Harrop of Shetland Wildlife and creator of the Shetland Orca Sightings Facebook page said he was “absolutely delighted” to be involved.

“It is fantastic how the North Atlantic whale-watching community has pulled together. It’s a great way of raising awareness of these very special creatures,” he said.

A previous contest was won by pupils from Sunnyside Primary School, in Glasgow, who are raising awareness on cetacean conservation issues as part of their curriculum.

More information on the adoption program and the work of Orca Guardians Iceland can be found here.

Source: Shetnews.co.uk

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Killer catalogue of Bremer population

April 27, 2017

Researchers have produced a catalogue of some of the killer whale population in the Bremer Canyon they hope will help track the health, population size and individual characteristics of the monochromatic mammals.

Scientists at the Centre for Marine Science and Technology at Curtin University have spent three years cataloguing Orcas based on their unique physical features such as their dorsal fin and markings.

PhD candidate Rebecca Wellard has worked on the Orca Research and Conservation Australia (ORCA) project from the beginning and said the best way to monitor killer whales and their ecosystem is to catalogue them.

“The dorsal fin is as unique as a human’s fingerprint,” she said.

“You can look at birth and survival rates and killer whales being an apex predator they are a proxy for the ecosystem, so they are a great animal to look at if you want to look at the whole system,” she said.

Ms Wellard said there was still little known about the killer whale populations in Australia and this project would go a long way to understanding how many killer whales are in Australian waters and how far they travel around the coast.

“We know they are off the coast off Bremer Bay during the summer but we don’t know where they go where they come from,” she said.

“By releasing the catalogue the public can compare any photos they take of killer whales from around the country and see if we can match them to the ones in the Bremer area.”

There are 81 killer whales in the catalogue with more than 20 to be added very soon and it is hoped that citizen scientists will submit their photographs to be included in the catalogue project.

Ms Wellard said scientists were still working to understand the population and abundance of killer whales and this catalogue was one step towards that goal.

The online catalogue can be found at the Curtin University Centre for Marine Science and Technology website and citizen scientist’s photographs can be submitted via orcatalkoz@gmail.com

Source: The West.com

Tribes sue Coast Guard over tanker traffic’s risk to orcas

April 26, 2017

The Tulalip and Suquamish tribes are suing the Coast Guard, alleging a failure to protect endangered orcas from the risk of oil spills associated with tanker traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Tuesday, the tribes argue that the Coast Guard has failed to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service over the impact of the tanker traffic it regulates on the killer whales. The tribes say the risk has increased significantly since the Canadian government approved the expansion of the TransMountain pipeline last November. That decision is expected to increase tanker traffic in the Strait of Juan de Fuca sevenfold.

Chief Petty Officer David Mosley in Seattle said the Coast Guard is reviewing the complaint.

The tribes are represented by the environmental law firm Earthjustice. They seek an order requiring the Coast Guard to avoid harm to the whales until the agency consults with the fisheries service.

Individual Puget Sound orcas are identified by unique black and white markings or variations in their fin shapes, and each whale is given a number and a name. The Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island keeps the federal government’s annual census on the population.

Three families – the J, K, and L pods – are genetically and behaviorally distinct from other killer whales. They use unique calls to communicate with one another and eat salmon rather than marine mammals.

Their numbers have fluctuated in recent decades as they have faced threats from pollution, lack of prey and disturbance from boats. They were listed as endangered in 2005.

Source: Spokesman.com

Recordings Show Baby Humpback Whales ‘Whispering’ to Avoid Killer Whales

April 25, 2017

Audio obtained from tags directly attached to the whales suggest that calves and mothers intentionally speak softly in case orcas pose a threat.

Newborn humpback whales, like human infants, are extremely vocal, yet new recordings reveal that baby whales often “whisper” to their mother in order to avoid being overheard by orcas, otherwise known as killer whales.

The sweet sounds, described in a study published in the journal Functional Ecology, were music to the ears of ecologists who were hoping to learn more about the first months of a humpback whale’s life.

“It is amazing to hear whales produce sounds underwater in an environment that is hard to access and is foreign to us,” lead author Simone Videsen of Aarhus University told Seeker. “It can only make you happy to hear these sounds produced by calves. The calls produced by the calves are very varied, and some of them sound like grunts while others are very squeaky.”

She added that the calves also produce rubbing sounds, “like two balloons being rubbed together,” which she and her colleagues suspect occurs when calves nudge their mother, signaling that they want to nurse.

Videsen and her team weren’t sure what they would record when they affixed lightweight tags to the backs of eight humpback whale calves and two mothers. The sensitive, high-tech data tags, or “DTAGS,” were attached with suction cups and recorded sounds for up to 48 hours before they detached and floated to the surface.

Humpback whales are often on the move. They spend their summers in the food-rich waters of the Antarctic or Arctic before migrating 5,000 miles in the winter to the tropics in order to breed and mate. The moms and calves included in the study were located at Exmouth Gulf in the northwestern region of the state of Western Australia.

Source: Seeker.com

Killer whales surface inches from shore in Shetland

April 25, 2017

A group of orcas stunned whale watchers after surfacing just inches from the shore.

The killer whales were captured on mobile phone footage off the Shetland coast.

Diver and photographer Richard Shucksmith filmed the pod as they entered a small gully three miles north of Lerwick.

“It’s the best orca sighting I’ve ever experienced,” said Mr Shucksmith. “A big bull killer whale a metre away.”

“I can only imagine they were hunting seals or fish, trying to flush something out.

“They came right in to the shoreline. They stopped in the gully for half an hour.”

Mr Shucksmith operates nature photography tours in Shetland, but it was pure chance that the orcas surfaced at his location.

He had been diving on a separate photography project when the whales appeared on Monday afternoon.

“I grabbed my camera, but I only had my big lenses. They were so close I needed a wide angle lens, but that was in the car.

“My mobile phone was the only way I could film them.”

Mr Shucksmith watched the orcas with a local family. He estimates there were about seven whales in the group.

The community runs a ‘Shetland Orca Sighting’ group on WhatsApp to share sightings around the islands.

To view the VIDEO visit the source at bbc.com

Killer whale sighted in Puerto Galera

April 23, 2017

The sighting of a killer whale in Puerto Galera, a town in Oriental Mindoro and a popular tourist destination in Luzon, has caught the attention of marine wildlife-conservation advocates.

The fascinating marine mammal, about 7 meters long, was photographed and posted on Facebook (FB) through the account of Kai Tagaki, who first thought it was a dolphin jumping up and down.

Posted on April 18, at 12:38 p.m., the FB post was shared 383 times as of this writing and drew various reactions.

One FB comment expressed fear that it might attack humans. Another comment said the sighting is a good sign—and that the health of the marine ecosystem is improving.

Except for the photo, not much information was provided in the FB. Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the report needs to be verified, although she said the killer whale could have been following its prey and found itself in that part of the Philippine waters.

She said it might have other companions, because killer whales are known to travel in groups during migration and while hunting preys.

“It may be after a prey and somehow got lost. But they usually hunt in group,” said Lim, who cautioned fishermen against hunting it down.

The largest among dolphin species, killer whales feed on almost anything they can find—including tuna, dolphins, sharks and even whale sharks. But it has no record of attack on humans.

The Philippines is a member of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, which include marine wildlife like sea turtles, dolphins, sharks and whales.

The Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines (MWWP), a non-governmental organization that advocates marine-wildlife conservation and their habitat in the Philippines, shared the post.

The group monitors illegal fishing or hunting of threatened marine wildlife, particularly those on the critically endangered list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

AA Yaptinchay, executive director of MWWP, said sightings of orca, or killer whale, is not new in the Philippines. While saying that a killer whale having been photographed is very rare, their sightings is not new.

“There are records of sightings of orca before. It is the most cosmopolitan among all whales,” he said. Orcas, or killer whales, belong to the dolphin family, he said.

Yaptinchay said unless they are captured or harmed, killer whales do not attack humans.

“There is no record of them eating humans,” he said.

He said it is not in orca’s nature to feed on human, although it feasts large fish species and preys almost on anything it can feed on—including deadly sharks.

Yaptinchay said the sightings of the killer whale should be a wake-up call to concerned government agencies to intensify monitoring of Philippine seas.

“Only 30 percent of our seas have been surveyed so far,” he said.

The group said conducting surveys will reveal how rich the Philippine seas is, and what we stand to lose in failing to protect our marine areas against destructive human activities.

Hunting of marine wildlife, he said, remains unchecked despite local and international laws prohibiting such acts of terrorism against these amazing creatures of the sea.

Source: Business Mirror.com

Famous transient killer whale Chainsaw (T063) spotted in Sooke waters

April 22, 2017

Paul Pudwell of Sooke Coastal Exploration notified us that world famous transient killer whale “Chainsaw” (formally T063) was spotted by his crew today (April 22), in Sooke waters. This whale has not seen for years. Last time Paul saw it in this area was three years ago.

T063 is nicknamed “Chainsaw,” because of the shape of his dorsal fin.

Following is the Sooke Coastal Exploration post on Facebook, along with access to their full gallery of this rare sighting.

Source: Sooke.Pocket News.ca

Mother And Calf Bonding At Sea World

April 21, 2017

The final “killer whale” that will be born in Sea World’s captivity has reached a milestone.

Sea World San Antonio reported Takara and her calf are bonding, as the baby has begun nursing.

“We will continue to observe Takara’s calf during these first critical days and weeks, and are happy to report that the calf is nursing on a regular basis” said Vice-President of Zoological Operations Chris Bellows, who added Takara looks to be doing well.

“Takara is eating regularly and her normal daily food intake of around 100 pounds of fresh fish will nearly double in order to produce her rich milk as she continues to nurse” Bellows said.

The calf’s gender has not yet been determined. Sea World San Antonio visitors will have the opportunity to observe Takara and her calf through the weekend during set visiting hours that will be posted at the park and at: http://www.SeaWorldSanAntonio.com

Source: ktsa.com

SeaWorld releases first footage of orca birth, newborn calf at San Antonio park

April 20, 2017 (Thursday)

SeaWorld has released footage of a female orca birthing the final killer whale calf to be bred at a SeaWorld park after the company ended its orca breeding program last year.

Takara, a 25-year-old female orca, gave birth to the calf after an 18-month pregnancy, the company announced late Wednesday night. The birth occurred about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the company’s San Antonio park. The orca was already pregnant when SeaWorld announced the end of its orca breeding program in March 2016.

Footage released by SeaWorld on Thursday shows Takara giving birth to the newborn orca and swimming alongside the calf.

The orca got pregnant naturally, an occurrence SeaWorld hopes to prevent in the future through “medical efforts, such as monitoring ovarian cycles and birth control, as well as social management to reduce the likelihood of conception,” SeaWorld San Antonio spokeswoman Gayle MacIntyre said last month.

The company believes Kyuquot — one of two male orcas at SeaWorld San Antonio — is the father, but will need to perform a paternity test to know for sure. Takara already has four children, two of which live at the San Antonio park.

“We are very excited by the birth of Takara’s calf and look forward to introducing her to our guests very soon,” SeaWorld San Antonio Carl Lum said in a statement Wednesday.

More than two dozen orcas will continue to live in the parks operated by the Orlando-based theme park company for decades, including five in San Antonio.

SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program following years of backlash, declining stock value and falling attendance at its parks sparked by the 2013 documentary film “Blackfish,” which scrutinized the Orlando-based theme park operator’s treatment of orcas. The company has sought to retool its public image by casting itself as an eco-friendly entertainment group that provides educational experiences alongside attractions such as roller coasters and water parks.

Tilikum — the orca who killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 and main subject of “Blackfish” — sired 14 calves over 25 years. He died of a bacterial infection in January.

Source: My San Antonio.com

Watch: Killer whale spotted in UAE waters

Ministry of Environment warn residents that hefty fines will be imposed if migrating orcas are harmed

April 19, 2017

Dubai: Authorities have issued a cautionary message to residents not to panic if they see a killer whale in the sea – they will not attack you.

A killer whale was recently spotted at a beach in Umm Al Quwain, and the video has gone viral on Twitter, with many social media users retweeting the video clip.

However, a number of social media users were quick to raise concern over how dangerous the whales can be, leaving the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to emphasise that a heavy fine will be imposed on anyone that harms these animals.

According to a statement issued in Arabic, Mona Omran Al Shamsi, acting director of Department for Biological Diversification at the ministry, clarified that killer whales are also known as orcas, and is one of the largest of dolphins.

“These dolphins do not pose any type of threat to the lives of fishermen or swimmers, and feed on marine mammals, such as fish and seals. Their curiosity will attract them to get close to beaches and while they do not show any type of aggression but like any kind of animal, they do defend themselves in dangerous events,” said Al Shamsi.

There have been very few cases of orca attacks in the wild and most marine biologists believe that in most cases such attacks are a case of mistaken identity, says WhaleFacts.org, where the dolphin initially identifies the human as a prey animal.

In these cases, the killer whale will quickly stop when realising its mistake.

“Any person who hunt these species of animals will be heavily fined and their fishing license will be revoked,” said Al Shamsi.

She explained that the ministry had spotted a number of dolphins and whales in UAE waters, including the bottlenose dolphin and the humpback whale, as they are currently migrating.

The species is a protected one, and is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES ) of Wild Fauna and Flora and Appendices I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) of Wild Animals.

Two other orcas were also sighted earlier this month, near the Musandam Peninsula of Oman. 

To watch the video visit the source at Gulf news.com