Getting Wild With… Orcas!

By Ayla Arif, age 9 and IndyKids staff

Image by Thomas Lipke on Unsplash

With a name like killer whale, you’d think it would be obvious which family these creatures belong to. But, in fact, killer whales, otherwise known as orcas, are not actually whales. They are dolphins. Female orcas can live up to 80 years, and male orcas can live up to 60 years. Much like humans, they live all over the world. Orcas are really smart and can teach other orcas how to hunt. They also have an amazing memory. When orcas are sleeping, they only close one eye, and half of their brain stays awake so that they don’t forget to breathe.

Orcas have recently been targeting sailboats off the coast of Spain and Portugal. According to the Washington Post, there have been around 250 cases of orcas attacking boats, resulting in three of them completely sinking. The orcas have been working in teams to ram into the sailboats and shake the rudders. White Gladis, a female orca, is believed to be the mastermind of this plot and is teaching other orcas to attack sailboats. Scientists believe Gladis may be doing this because she suffered some sort of trauma related to a sailboat.

As orcas are a critically endangered species, this behavior is concerning, as gaining a bad reputation would be a big problem. “Some sailors are recommending that you throw chloride, diesel, firecrackers or even dynamite in the water,” explained Hanne Strager, a marine biologist and author of The Killer Whales Journals, in an interview with CNN. “But this very vulnerable little population of killer whales depends on our love for them. They depend on our protection.”

Orcas face many threats: pollution, boat strikes, the threat of capture and getting tangled in fishing nets, to name a few. Noise pollution is also a problem because orcas use their hearing to navigate the ocean. To try and avoid further disturbances, Daniel Kriz, a skipper who has worked extensively in both the Atlantic and Pacific, suggested to CNN that there should be more areas where no boating is allowed, giving the orca a larger area to roam freely.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *