An orca killed a baby killer whale in B.C. waters so he could mate with its mom, scientists believe

March 22, 2018

WARNING: Disturbing details.

Water sprays into the air after the orca mother of a newborn rams the male who killed her baby on Dec. 2, 2016.

An orca killed a baby killer whale in B.C. waters, in what is believed to be the first infanticide among the species, say the findings of a research paper published in Nature this week.

And it was all because the orca wanted to mate with its mother, scientists believe.

The encounter was spotted in the area of the Johnstone Strait north of Vancouver Island on Dec. 2, 2016.

It began at about 10 a.m., when orca sounds were heard at a hydrophone station near Robson Bight.

About an hour later, a research boat set out from Alert Bay and found northern resident, or Biggs killer whales travelling west in the western Johnstone Strait.

There were two groups of orcas.

One consisted of a mother and her adult son. They were following about 200 metres behind three members of a family of whales with whom they would soon find themselves in a bloody conflict.

One of the whales they were following had wounds from the teeth of another whale — some of which were bleeding.

Then, about a half-hour later, researchers spotted more whales belonging to the same family. There was a mother, her two daughters and a newborn baby.

The family of orcas came together close to Haddington Island, about a half-hour after that — but the pursuing mother and her son stayed about 200 meters behind them.

Several more minutes went by and “erratic movements and splashing suggestive of a predation event were observed,” according to the paper.

The male that earlier gave pursuit was moving away from the other orcas as they circled him.

The newborn baby was not surfacing next to its mother.

Researchers soon noticed the newborn’s body being dragged by the male pursuer, the baby’s carcass trailing beneath his jaw.

And now, the newborn’s mother looked to be after him.

She appeared to chase the male as his own mother tried to move between them, and together the whales sent off “intense vocal activity” that could be heard through the hull of the research boat.

The newborn’s mom rammed the male hard enough to “send blood and water into the air” and to make his blubber “shake like a bowl of Jello,” according to researchers.

The encounter calmed down at about 12:43 p.m., when the pursuing male and his mother moved away from the area, the latter dragging the newborn baby’s body by the tail.

She was later spotted holding the baby’s left pectoral flipper in her mouth.

The pair were spotted with the newborn’s body as late as 4 p.m., but the observation was called off due to the onset of nighttime at 4:15 p.m.

Researchers later determined that the pursuing male drowned the baby by gripping its tail with his teeth, and giving it no chance to surface for air due to his “consistent forward motion.”

They believe the attack happened due to “sexual selection,” a phenomenon in which a male commits an infanticide, not only to mate with the baby’s mother, but also to “remove the progeny of a competing male from the gene pool,” study co-author Jared Towers told Global News.

“I think this behaviour was motivated by a desire to breed,” he said.

Orcas tend to lactate for up to two years after they give birth — and they don’t ovulate while they’re lactating, he added.

“With knowing this female had just given birth, and knowing if that infant was killed, that ends lactation,” Towers said.

“Then she can become fertile again quite quickly. There’s an opportunity there for a breeding male to have his genes get passed along to the next generation.”

READ MORE: Killer whales hunting near Washington state put on amazing aerial show

The researchers also weren’t surprised to see the whale’s mother work together with her son to kill the newborn and assist her son in finding a mate.

“In sympatric populations, post-reproductive female killer whales increase the survival of adult sons by sharing ecological knowledge and prey with them,” the paper said.

Their working together was likely motivated by the potential to improve their “inclusive fitness” — that is, their genetic success thanks to cooperating.

“This benefits inclusive fitness of the female because a positive relationship exists between reproductive success and age in male killer whales,” the paper read.

Source: Global

Rare footage captures the gruesome moment two killer whales attack and disembowel a dolphin off the coast of Namibia

March 19, 2018

  • A ravaged dolphin carcass washed up on a beach near Pelican Point, Namibia
  • Experts captured rare footage of a whale attacking a dolphin just one day earlier 
  • Incredible footage shows a Heaviside’s dolphin being flipped out of the water
  • Scientists believe the remains belong to the dolphin they caught on camera

Rare footage has captured the horrifying moment a dolphin was ravaged by killer whales off the coast of Africa. 

The gruesome attack was captured by scientists who recorded the moment the dolphin was tossed out of the water and into the jaws of one of the huge mammals.

Its ravaged carcass was washed up on a beach days later after being torn apart by two of the beasts.

Images of the remains of the Heaviside’s dolphin show the body after it was disembowelled and shredded of its blubber.

Researcher Dr Simon Elwen said while such attacks were not uncommon, in 20 years of research on marine mammals, he had never seen a carcass so severely ravaged. 

The body was found washed ashore on a beach near Pelican Point, Namibia, earlier this month.

Authorities contacted a marine biology team to identify the creature but, by the time they reached the scene, the body had been swept back into the ocean.

In a twist of fate, the same scientists had captured the start of the feeding frenzy footage just one day earlier.

The research team, known as Namibian Dolphin Project (NDP), was looking at the impact of an oil spill when the distinct dorsal fin of a killer whale broke the surface of the water.

In a flurry of activity, two killer whales can be seen in the clip hunting the unfortunate dolphin.

Dr Elwen, who is the NDP Director, said: ‘The heavily mutilated, freshly dead carcass was reported on a nearby beach through the local strandings network.

The NDP responded to the call but the carcass could not be found and is thought to have washed out to sea.’

Dr Elwen said in 20 years of research on marine mammals, he had never seen a carcass so severely ravaged. 

Whilst the team can not study the remains, they believe the footage and the condition of the carcass indicate that the killer whales were responsible.

‘I have only ever seen animals “peeled” of their blubber and with their organs pulled out being caused by killer whales,’ Dr Elwen added.

‘So there’s every indication the carcass belonged to the adult Heaviside’s dolphin attacked in our footage from the day before.’ 

Killer whales hunt in packs, attacking their prey from multiple directions to keep them from escaping.

In this attack, the whales hunted as a pair, with one attacking and the other orca circling ominously.

The rare sighting was the first time the group had witnessed killer whales in those waters in 600 trips.

Dr Elwen said: ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime event with highly valuable data, so the team mobilised immediately.’

‘After about an hour they spotted a very quick rush at the surface back and forth. The larger killer whale lifted his body out of the water and revealed an adult sized Heaviside’s dolphin in his mouth.

‘We could see that the Heaviside’s dolphin was bleeding but there was no further struggle and the killer whales dove underwater with their prey.’

Source: Daily

Canada announces $12M for killer whale research

March 15, 2018

The Canadian government announced it’s putting $12 million towards protecting killer whales from vessel collisions on the ocean through a new Whale Detection Initiative.

The funds will be distributed over five years to develop and test technologies that will help detect whales in real time.

About $9.1 million will go towards developing and testing various acoustic and imaging devices, including underwater microphones.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister, Dominic LeBlanc, says the government will spend another $3.1 million on research projects focused on helping protect the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales located off the Southern West Coast of B.C.

Three researchers from the University of Victoria—Francis Juanes, Rosaline Canessa and Stan Dosso—were awarded $935,000 in federal funds to study the impact of underwater noise on the southern pod, as well as study their main food source, the chinook salmon.

“We’re thrilled by this opportunity to undertake important research into human impacts on the southern resident killer whales and their prey,” said Francis Juanes, UVic fisheries ecologist and lead investigator for the chinook salmon research.

“We anticipate contributing significantly to understanding the stressors affecting these magnificent marine mammals and, ultimately, to mitigation measures to help ensure their long-term survival and success.”

Coastal geographer, Rosaline Canessa, is leading the vessel disturbance study and marine acoustics specialist, Stan Dosso will head up the echolocation research.

There are about 76 Southern Resident Killer Whales left, causing them to be considered an endangered population under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

The small population also has a low reproductive rate and incurs a variety of threats caused by human activity.

Several conservation groups , have been working to protect the species, calling for the public to sign petitions and have the government control vessel traffic, enforce Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and protect the ocean food chain.

The Government of Canada is working with Indigenous peoples, as well as local stakeholders and communities in six pilot sites to determine the key impacts of marine vessel activity on coastal environments.

The six sites include: Northern B.C.; Southern B.C.; St. Lawrence River, Quebec; Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick; South Coast, Newfoundland and Arctic, Nunavut.

The new initiative falls under the 2016 $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, with the goal of ensuring whales are around for future generations.

The plan also aims to remove abandoned boats to reduce the risks of shipping on marine animals and the ocean.


Orca washed up on Auckland beach

March 14, 2017

The dead killer whale was found on Monday at Whatipu Beach, West Auckland.

An orca has washed up at Whatipu beach in West Auckland, possibly the victim of being hit by a boat.

The adult male whale was reported to the Department of Conservation on Monday, which then sought permission from local iwi to launch a post-mortem investigation.

Coastal-Marine Research Group Director Karen Stockin said photographs taken by Department of Conservation rangers showed possible blunt force trauma to the head.

“At this stage it’s too early to speculate what the cause of the trauma may be, although boat strike is an obvious consideration,” Stockin said.

A team from Auckland’s Massey University will examine the animal on Tuesday afternoon.

They aim to take a biological sampling of the animal to assess diet and pollution loads.

Orcas are considered “nationally critical” in New Zealand with known threats being fisheries interactions and boat strike.

Marine mammals in New Zealand are legally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1978).

Anyone who accidentally kills or injures a marine mammal is required to report the incident to a fishery officer or the Department of Conservation within 48 hours.

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Regulations (1992) vessels must avoid rapid changes in both speed and direction and not exceed speeds faster than the slowest mammal within 300 metres.

Vessels travelling at speeds over 15 knots are more likely to kill a whale or dolphin if they hit it and can still cause severe damage if travelling over five knots.


New effort to bring ‘Lolita the killer whale’ back to Northwest from Miami Seaquarium

March 12, 2018

The Lummi Nation is making a serious effort to return Tokitae, also known as Lolita the killer whale, back to her ancestral waters of the Northwest.

On Tuesday, leaders of the Lummi Nation will join Florida gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine and the Orca Network to ask the Miami Seaquarium to formally release Tokitae from captivity.

The killer whale was taken from the waters of Penn Cove in 1970 and for the last 47 years, she’s been living in a tank at the Miami Seaquarium.

She was the sole survivor of all the orcas that were captured at that time.

The Lummis believe they have an ancestral and treaty rights to bring Tokitae back to the waters from where she was taken.

The tribe is in negotiations with a landowner on Orcas Island to create a permanent pen in a cove that would separate Tokitae for her safety but still allow her to communicate with other whales.

Lolita has been the focus of movies, documentaries and protests for decades.

The Lummi’s have sent the operators of the Miami Seaquarium three letters asking for a meeting to discuss the sale of Lolita, but have not received a message back.

In a statement, the Seaquarium told WPLG-TV, “Miami Seaquarium has the utmost respect for the Lummi nation…however members of the Lummi business council are not marine mammal experts and are misguided when they offer a proposal that is not in the best interest of Lolita.”

Jewell James of the Lummi House of Tears Carvers is carving a commemorative totem pole that will depart May 9 for a 4,000 mile awareness journey across the western and southern U.S. and ending at the Miami Sequarium.

“We’ll have 565 tribes behind us, a couple hundred environmental groups and churches before we are done,” said James.

He said the Seaquarium has an opportunity to right a wrong.

“Now if they work with us, they’ll become heroes, if they don’t they will lose $1 or $2 billion,” said James.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee will issue an executive order on Wednesday to establish a task force and other measures to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whales, which call Washington waters home.

The order will include habitat protection, restoration and Chinook salmon recovery.

The population of whales has declined to its lowest level in 30 years, from 98 in 1995 to 76 today according to the governor’s office.

The Lummi’s hope to add one more.

Source: Komo

Two killer whales spotted off Co Kerry

March 7, 2018

Two large killer whales have been spotted off the Blasket Islands in Co Kerry.

Rarely seen in Irish waters, it is believed the orcas may be hunting seals in the area.

The killer whales have been identified and belong to a pod of well-known orcas normally seen off the Scottish Hebrides.

The two males were spotted by a group of whale watchers around 3km south of Great Blasket Island.

Nick Massett, of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, said the killer whales came within 60m of their boat and the close encounter took his breath away.

“This was the first time I’ve seen a killer whale here and there’s just something about them. They’re awesome. They are an apex predator and you just know that. You can sense that. They have a presence about them.”

The notchings on one of the dorsal fins was quickly identified as those belonging to ‘John Coe’, a well known killer whale.

The large male was first photographed off the Scottish Hebrides over 35 years ago.

The second orca has been identified as ‘Aquarius’.

They are members of a small pod of eight animals called the Scottish West Coast Community.

Local whale watcher Britta Wilkens believes the killer whales may have ventured south in search of seals.

“We know that killer whales are predators and eat both fish and other sea mammals. There is a large colony of over 1,000 grey seals on Blasket Island and perhaps they are hunting those.”

‘John Coe’ has been seen off the Irish coast on a number of occasions since he was first sighted here in 2009, most recently in June 2016.

It is believed the killer whales may be venturing further south due to dwindling food supplies.

“There’s a lot of concern for this pod. It’s been in long-term decline. They haven’t reproduced in two decades or more. They unfortunately seem to be dying out,” added Mr Massett.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group is urging the public to report any further sightings of killer whales on its website


Free Lolita! PETA Buys Stock in Miami Seaquarium’s Parent Company

March 6, 2017

Lolita, the solitary orca at the Miami Seaquarium, has spent nearly half a century in captivity. She has been without the companionship of another orca since 1980, when her tankmate, Hugo, died in an apparent suicide by ramming his head repeatedly into the tank wall. Today, following the 37th anniversary of Hugo’s death, PETA has purchased stock in the Miami Seaquarium’s parent company, Parques Reunidos, and will use shareholder opportunities to work to win the orca Lolita’s freedom.

Parques Reunidos is also the parent company of Marineland in Antibes, France, which holds four orcas captive: Wikie, Inouk, Moana, and Keijo. At least 12 others have died there since 1970, including 19-year-old Valentin, who succumbed in 2015 to severe internal injuries, after a storm caused the oxygenation and filtration systems in his tank to stop working, leaving him trapped in a pool of muddy water. Just months earlier, his mother, Freya, also died, decades before the maximum life expectancy of female orcas in the wild.

“Lolita’s extended family is still swimming freely in the ocean, and we want her to be reunited with them,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is calling for all these highly intelligent, social animals to be released into seaside sanctuaries, allowing them to enjoy a more natural life and be rehabilitated for potential release into the ocean, where they belong.”


Washington state Senate passes orca protection bills

March 3, 2018

The Washington State Senate has passed legislation to protect orcas and the state’s marine waters where they live.

Two bills that make up the Salish Sea Protection package was passed by lawmakers during a Saturday session in Olympia.

The Orca Whale Protection Act (SB 5886) – which was declared dead last week in the Washington State Senate and then revived – passed with a 34-15 vote. It aims to decrease noise pollution and strengthen orca protection laws by requiring boats to give orcas an adequate buffer.

The bill also provides funding for improved education and enforcement by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. It calls for a trans-boundary discussion of orca whale protection and preservation. A $5 increase for an endangered wildlife special license plate helps fund the efforts.

The Salish Sea Protection Act (SB 6269) passed the state Senate 42-7. This legislation will provide additional funding for state oil spill prevention and response activities, updater geographical response plans, and provide funding to research and make recommendations for both tug escorts and a stationed, rescue tug for all vessels carrying large quantities of oil across the Salish Sea.

It also calls for more collaboration and partnership with our Canadian neighbors.

“The Puget Sound resident orca population has dropped to one of its lowest levels ever. We must do everything in our power to protect these incredible whales on the brink of extinction,” state Sen. Kevin Ranker, who introduced the bills, said in a released statement. “This bill ensures our children will continue to enjoy the wonder and beauty of watching these magical creatures.”

Both bills now head to the House of Representatives for further consideration.


Mysterious orcas are filmed underwater for the first time: Pod of the elusive and majestic type D killer whales is spotted by chance by tourists returning from Antarctica

March 2, 2018

  • These creatures have only been spotted a handful of times in the past 70 years
  • A submerged camera caught the incredible underwater footage of the pod
  • Some experts believe they should even qualify as their own species 
  • Sighting was particularly rare as these creatures live in deep waters far from land

A pod of illusive type D killer whales has been filmed underwater for the first time by surprised researchers on a tourist boat returning from Antarctica.

These majestic creatures – which were only identified in 1955 – have only been spotted a handful of times in the past 70 years.

A submerged camera caught the unique underwater footage of the pod as they moved in synchrony with one another.

These incredible creatures are so distinct from other orcas some experts believe they should even qualify as their own species. 

‘They were playing and seemed to be following our boat… they just kept popping up,’ said Gregg Treinish, executive director of Adventure Scientists who was a guest speaker on the Lindland expedition.

As well as being seen by tourists on the boat, an underwater camera captured these rare animals floating beneath the surface, writesNational Geographic, as part of an in-depth feature.

The sighting was particularly rare as these creatures generally live in deep waters far from land.

Compared to normal dolphins, these orcas have more bulbous heads and sharper dorstal fins.

The patches over their eyes are smaller than on other species – A, B and C – which are all known to dwell in Antarctic waters.

‘We know next to nothing about what they feed on, their longevity, their migrations, if any, or their social structure,’ said Conor Ryan, a naturalist on the Lindblad expedition.

When they were first discovered after a mass stranding in New Zealand in the 1950s they were thought to be a mutated type of the worldwide orca species.

They are especially distinctive due to their small eye patches, writes UK Whales.

Type A is the most common type of orca. They are the large, black and white ones with white eye patches that most people are used to seeing.

Type B is smaller and more grey than black on their darker areas. Type C is the smallest with white eye patches slanted at an angle to the body.

Although there have been few sightings of the type D variety there have been enough sightings for experts to realise they are a unique ecotype and not just a mutation.

They have been seen eating Patagonian toothfish but it is unknown if they exclusively eat fish.

Experts believe that if they are a new species they could be the largest undescribed animal left on the planet.


These majestic creatures – which were only identified in 1955 – have only been spotted a handful of times in the past 70 years.

When they were first discovered after a mass stranding in New Zealand in the 1950s they were thought to be a mutated type of the worldwide orca species.

They are so distinct from other orcas some experts believe they should even qualify as their own species.

Compared to normal dolphins, these orcas have more bulbous heads and sharper dorstal fins.

The patches over their eyes are smaller than on other species – A, B and C – which are all known to dwell in Antarctic waters.

They are especially distinctive due to their small eye patches. 

They have been seen eating Patagonian toothfish but it is unknown if they exclusively eat fish.

Experts believe that if they are a new species they could be the largest undescribed animal left on the planet.

Source: Daily