Only known white killer whale sighted by scientists for first time since 2012

September 1, 2016

An extremely rare white killer whale – the first adult of its kind ever spotted – has been rediscovered by scientists.

 The whale, who they have named Iceberg, was seen off the coast of Russia’s Kuril Islands.

Iceberg was last spotted in 2012 off the coast of Kamchatka in eastern Russia, and seems to be still enjoying a healthy life in its pod.

The 22-year-old whale is the only adult Orca ever to have been spotted in the wild.

Just one in ten thousand killer whales, also known as Orcas, are completely white.

Young white killer whales are sometimes seen in the wild, but they usually die before they reach adulthood.

The species usually live to around 30, but can survive until 50 or 60. They mature at 15.

The latest spotting of Iceberg was recorded by American researcher Erich Hoyt, 65, of the Far East Russia Orca Project who was also the very first person to see the animal.

He told the BBC at the time: “We’ve seen another two white orcas in Russia but they’ve been young, whereas this is the first time we’ve seen a mature adult.

“Iceberg seems to be fully socialised; we know that these fish-eating orcas stay with their mothers for life, and as far as we can see he’s right behind his mother with presumably his brothers next to him.”

Scientists do not yet know why the whales are white, but some think their white colouring could be caused by albinism, a congenital disorder marked by the absence of pigment in the skin.

The Russian Orcas group wrote on Facebook: ” Today our paper on Iceberg and other white whales is published in Aquatic Mammals. 5 years on, Iceberg is still travelling with his family of fish-eating orcas, but he isn’t the only all white orca: we’ve now recorded at least 5 and maybe up to 8 different white killer whales .

“Russian waters appear to be the world’s number one area for white killer whales who may be leucistic (patchy white pigmentation) or true albinos. It’s a dubious honor. As reported in our paper, albinism probably indicates inbreeding of small populations.”



Killer whales stuck in shallow water saved by fishermen in Russia’s Far East

August 6, 2016

Four Russian fishermen hung up their rods to take part in a daring operation to rescue two killer whales that had become stuck in a tidal trap. The orcas became ensnared in shallow waters and were unable to move further out to sea.

The whale-saving operation took place on Sakhalin Island, in Russia’s Far East, and north of Japan.

The fishermen managed to help the smaller of the two killer whales out to sea, while the larger mammal swam away on its own accord when the tide came in.

“The killer whales got trapped in shallow waters, in a so-called ocean bank – a ridge that appears when the tide goes out,” – a friend of the fishermen told local news website “It’s only waist-deep for a human, let alone killer whales. So the guys were carefully trying to pull them out into the deep without scaring or hurting the animals.”

For nearly two hours the men would use a rope to lasso it around the whale’s fin and then pull it with a speed boat.

Killer whales frequent Sakhalin waters and this is not the first time humans have come to the rescue: in April it took a team of volunteers two days to free four whales that got stuck in ice.


Trapped Killer Whales Rescued From Russian Ice

April 19, 2016

Whales being rescued from ice

Three killer whales have been rescued after becoming surrounded by ice and cut off from the sea.

One of the whales was “lying on stones” in shallow water and two others were “squeezed in ice”, said Denis Ilyinov from Russia’s emergency ministry.

Rescuers plunged into the freezing water to shove the ice aside, while others used poles to try to clear a path for the orcas in eastern Russia’s Sahkalin region.

Three killer whales, including one calf, eventually managed to thread their way back back to the open sea.

Rescuers stayed with the fourth orca and were waiting for higher water to help it escape.