There were killer whales (orca) hanging around Wellington harbour yesterday – as reported by Anton van Helden, Te Papa’s marine mammal specialist. More killer whales were seen this morning, though I’d don’t know if they are the same animals.
After a txt from Anton I raced down to the South Coast at Owhiro Bay, not far from where I live, and headed round to Te Kopahou Reserve, towards Red Rocks.
I’ve been a bit of a whale fanatic ever since working with Anton on Te Papa’s Whales Tohora exhibition (which is now touring the States). I’ve still to see a live killer whale, so here was my chance….
I missed them by about 15 minutes – by the time I got there they had moved off further round the coast! People with better eyesight than me could still see a fin or two in the distance.
The fellow whale fans who had been watching them told me they had seen four killer whales swim right into the bay, close to the shore. I was green with jealousy – what an amazing sight (and I’d missed it!).
The whales included one large animal with a large, tall dorsal fin. The size and shape of the fin of a killer whale can be used to identify individual animals. Research scientists such as Ingrid Visser use this information to identify killer whales seen in New Zealand waters.
So no pictures from me of the killer whales to share, but if anyone out there did get a picture of them please tell us .
These false killer whales are at risk. They have the smallest population size of any toothed whale or dolphin in Hawaiian waters, they feed high on the food chain and have to compete with humans for food. They accumulate high levels of persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs and flame retardants.In Hawaiian waters, many are killed each year or seriously injured in the offshore longline fishery. Since 1999, so many have been killed its been impossible for the false killer whales to maintain a sustainable level. There is evidence the island-associated population has declined substantially during the last 20 years, and a petition to list them under the Endangered Species Act was recently submitted.