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