Orcas Learn to Sink Ships?

As heard on Outdoor Journal Radio

The intelligence of Orcas, and other marine mammals, has been long known, but can they really learn to sink a ship?

As heard on Outdoor Journal Radio, a pod of killer whales recently attacked and sunk a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar, between Spain and Morocco. The nearly 50-foot yacht, named The Alboran Cognac, was 15 miles from Cabo Espartel in Morocco when an unknown number of orcas began ramming it. Everyone on board was reduced, but the boat eventually sank.

Perhaps this would make fewer headlines if it was a one-off event, but, according to according to GT Orca Atlantica, a conservation group, there have been approximately 700 orca encounters since 2020 and nearly 25 per month in 2024!

Why are they sinking ships?

“We have two theories about why these interactions started,” said Mónica González, a marine biologist with CEMMA. “The first is that the orcas are just playing, and the other is that one animal suffered an aversive moment and the orcas are trying to stop the boats to prevent it from happening again — but we don’t know exactly what happened in the first place.”

In an interview with CNN, biologist Alfredo López Fernandez further added to this claim pointing to a particular female orca, White Gladis, that has been involved in incidents since 2020. “There are clues suggesting that White Gladis (one of the orcas) may have become entangled in fishing gear — a common threat to orcas — either as an accident or during an illegal fishing attempt.”

“Orcas are a very matriarchal society and all juveniles look up to these very important females in the pod; the juveniles are copying their behaviours because they believe that if these very important individuals do something, they have to do the same to ensure their own survival,” González said.

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