Pod of killer whales kill and eat a humpback and its calf

October 21, 2016

A pod of killer whales have killed and eaten a humpback and its calf, just metres from startled fishermen who captured the extraordinary moment on camera

A pod of killer whales have killed and eaten a humpback and its calf, just metres from startled fishermen who captured the extraordinary moment on camera.

The incredible footage shows at least a dozen killer whales swarming around the carcasses of the huge animals as their blood and blubber spill into the water.

Crayfisherman Kevin Ostel took the remarkable video as he was sailing off the coast of Lancelin, north of Perth, in Western Australia.

The 10-metre long humpback and its young offspring are believed to have been drowned by the killer whales before tearing them apart.

Mr Ostel and his crew spotted a ‘commotion’ in the water before realising the disturbance was more than a dozen killer whales toying with two carcasses.

‘It must have just happened then that they killed the humpbacks as there was blood in the water,’ the fisherman told Daily Mail Australia.

Source: Dailymail.co.uk

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Eastern Australia’s First publicly available killer whale catalog released!

August 10, 2016

Killer Whales Australia is very proud to announce the release of ‘Killer Whales of Eastern Australia’, the first publicly available killer whale catalogue of its kind.

“This publication has been a long time in the making and we are super excited to finally be able to make it available publicly,” said Killer Whales Australia manager David Donnelly.

The catalogue is the result of hundreds of hours of image processing and analysis of data that has been collected over a 30-plus year period.

East Australian killer whales are highly transient, making them an incredibly difficult species to study. However, thanks to the help of citizen scientists along our coast lines, we are now just beginning to understand a little bit about these apex predators, he said.

“Taking the citizen science approach to this work has enabled us to acquire over 3,000 images from 139 sightings,” Mr Donnelly said. “This is something we would never have been able to achieve without the generosity of everyday people.”

The citizen science network incorporates members of the general public, charter operators, fishermen wildlife management groups and a range of maritime organisations. “We really are truly blessed to have so many generous people in our network,” Mr Donnelly said.

Mr Donnelly said specifically to the Narooma area, locals who had helped included Narooma Charters operator Darryl Stuart, local photographer Jonathon Poyner and game fisherman James Kemp. And down at Eden, operator Ross Butt at Cat Balou Cruises had also contributed immensely.

So for example, one of the individual orcas catalogued is EA_12 aka “Groovey”. This animal is a regular to the Montague Island area where she and her pod have been observed hunting sharks, Mr Donnelly said.

Groovey has been sighted as far south as the Derwent River near Hobart. Montague Island is the farthest north so far she has been sighted. She was first photographed in 2006 by Darryl Stuart of Narooma Charters and the damage to her back was likely caused by a boat strike.

The most recent addition to the catalogue is EA_58, which was photographed interacting violently with humpback whales off Bermagui by Narooma News journalist Stan Gorton in June. Blubber found at the scene has now been sent for testing at the University of Tasmania.

The catalog itself contains 63 individual killer whales from two ecotypes being type A and C. Type A killer whales are by far the most frequently sighted along the eastern seaboard with type Cs being very occasional visitors who travel up from Antarctic waters.

The two ecotypes can be distinguished by their characteristic eye patches. The Type A has an oval shaped, horizontal white patch above and behind the eye, while the type C’s eye patch is much narrower and rises at an angle from the eye toward the dorsal line. Type C killer whales also have a prominent dorsal cape that is easily seen at sea.

To coincide with the launch of the catalogue, Killer Whales Australia are also launching a crowd-funding campaign to help support the continuation killer whale research in Australia, which will include the development of an open access online database.

People wishing to support the crowd funding campaign can visit https://experiment.com/projects/estimating-the-population-size-ofaustralian-killer-whales-using-citizen-science

The general public can download their very own copy of the catalogue for free via Killer Whales Australia Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Killer%20Whales%20Australia or at http://wildiaries.com/articles/214-Killer-Whales-of-Eastern-Australia 

Killers return to seals’ island home

July 11, 2016

A POD of killer whales has caused excitement among wildlife watchers off Flinders and Phillip Island, although its arrival is probably not so welcome by the inhabitants of Seal Rocks.

Known as the ocean’s apex predator, the killer whales, or orcas, were first seen by tour operator Wildlife Coast Cruises about 11am on 4 July.

The Dolphin Research Institute’s David Donnelly said the news quickly spread with “eager whale watchers converging on the location, but you had to be quick as the pod was clearly on a mission”.

“Shortly after arriving the killer whales quickly went about investigating the local Australian fur seal colony. It wasn’t long before onlookers were treated to the sight of the apex predators throwing prey – likely to be a seal – into the air, tail slapping and breaching.”

Mr Donnelly said a photo taken by Robyn Raven of Phillip Island confirmed that one of the killer whales was “a very well-known individual affectionately known as Split Fin”.

“Split Fin has been known to the east Australian photo identification catalogue since 2003,” he said.

“Her very distinctive dorsal fin makes Split Fin easily recognisable at sea. The fin has a large vertical split through the centre, causing it to flop to the left. The cause of the disfiguration is believed to be from an interaction with a boat propeller.”

Mr Donnelly said the killer whales moved off to the west about an hour later, “passing two humpback whales on the way”.

Photographer Matt Burgess reported seeing the same killer whales near West Head, Flinders.

“You never know what the ocean will serve up. One minute I was shooting waves, the next 10-15 killer whales swam past,” he said.

“I’ve never seen one before, it was amazing.”

The pod was last seen swimming through the Mushroom Reef marine sanctuary toward Cape Schanck.

Mr Donnelly said the same pod of killer whales was identified near Phillip Island on 27 December 2015.

“Killer whales are technically not whales, they are in fact the largest species of dolphin. They can be found in all of the world’s oceans from the equator to the polar ice caps.”

Details: Facebook Killer Whales Australia

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 12 July 2016