Killer whales target sailors in ‘orchestrated attacks’ – ships told to stay away

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Killer whales have carried out a raft of attacks on boats in Spanish and Portuguese waters, baffling scientists.

In the last two months, two boats lost part of their rudders, one crew member suffered bruising, and several boats were seriously damaged.

On September 11, an orca rammed a boat en route to the UK at least 15 times – forcing it to be towed back to port in A Coruna on the northern coast of Spain.

On August 30, a French-flagged vessel told the coastguard it was “under attack” from the killer whales, The Observer reports.

Later that day, a Spanish naval yacht, Mirfak, lost part of its rudder after an orca assault.

The previous month, nine orcas surrounded a delivery boat off Cape Trafalgar in the south-west of Spain and rammed its hull for over an hour.

Captain Victoria Morris said the assault felt “totally orchestrated”, leaving the engine disabled and spinning the boat 180 degrees.

Other Brits were affected at sea the previous day, with one reporting a bang “like a sledgehammer”.

The Spanish maritime authorities warned vessels to “keep a distance” after the attacks.

Dr Ruth Esteban, a Gibraltar orca expert, says it is unlikely that different groups of whales would carry out such similar attacks.

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Researchers studying a small orca population in the Strait of Gibraltar said it is normal for the animals to follow boats and even nudge the rudders, but never with such force.

Orcas, typically 23-32ft, are the largest dolphins and communicate with sounds that travel underwater.

They are one of the world’s most powerful predators and target animals such as penguins, seals, and even whales.

Orcas hunt in pods, made up of family groups of up to 40 individuals.

Back in August, an ultra-rare white killer whale was caught in stunning footage by a nature-lover as he swam with his pod in Alaska.

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Tl’uk, a juvenile killer whale, was first spotted in 2018 and still looks to be healthy and thriving with his family in a video uploaded on Instagram by @worldtravelstephanie.

In the clip, adult orcas glide effortlessly through the water – occasionally breaching the surface to breathe.

Tl’uk's pale body is glimpsed below the crystal-clear waves before he too breaks through to show-off his unusual lack of-colouring.

According to Stephanie Hayes, a doctoral student in marine biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the sighting is so rare "researchers never expect to see one in their career".

Tl’uk is said to be around two years old and Stephanie described him as a "healthy member of his pod", theorising his pale colour could be caused by a condition called leucism.

  • Animals

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