Orcas have sunk 3 boats in Europe and appear to be teaching others to do the same KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt


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Saturday, May 20, 2023

Orcas have sunk 3 boats in Europe and appear to be teaching others to do the same

Orcas have sunk 3 boats in Europe and appear to be teaching others to do the same. 

Scientists think a traumatized orca initiated the assault on boats after a "critical moment of agony" and that the behavior is spreading among the population.

Three orcas (Orcinus orca), also known as killer whales, struck the yacht on the night of May 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar, off the coast of Spain, and pierced the rudder. "There were two smaller and one larger orca," skipper Werner Schaufelberger told the German publication Yacht. "The little ones shook the rudder at the back while the big one repeatedly backed up and rammed the ship with full force from the side." 

Schaufelberger said he saw the smaller orcas imitate the larger one. "The two little orcas observed the bigger one's technique and, with a slight run-up, they too slammed into the boat." Spanish coast guards rescued the crew and towed the boat to Barbate, but it sank at the port entrance.

Orcas, which are also known as killer whales, aren’t typically aggressive. However, the first of these incidents began in May of 2020. Scientists studying the incidents believe that the first on was driven by some kind of agony experienced by the Orca. Since then, though, others have been spotted attack sailboats and other vessels around them.

Most of the encounters end up harmless, one of the scientists told Live Science. However more than 500 interactions have been recorded since that first one in 2020. So far, these orca boat attacks have led to three sunken ships, raising concerns over how things might progress moving forward. While the scientists aren’t 100 percent sure the attacks began with that initial one, it is clear the orcas are attacking on purpose. 

Two days earlier, a pod of six orcas assailed another sailboat navigating the strait. Greg Blackburn, who was aboard the vessel, looked on as a mother orca appeared to teach her calf how to charge into the rudder. "It was definitely some form of education, teaching going on," Blackburn told 9news.

Reports of aggressive encounters with orcas off the Iberian coast began in May 2020 and are becoming more frequent, according to a study published June 2022 in the journal Marine Mammal Science. Assaults seem to be mainly directed at sailing boats and follow a clear pattern, with orcas approaching from the stern to strike the rudder, then losing interest once they have successfully stopped the boat.

Experts involved in studying the incidents say that the first incident happened after a female orca named White Gladis suffered a collision with a boat, or entrapment in an illegal fishing net, which triggered a behaviour switch. And, since orcas are social animals, the behavior began to spread from them, leading to this most recent incident where three orcas attacked a small boat, eventually sinking it. 

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