Killer whale is TEACHING other orcas to attack yachts near Gibraltar
The revenge of Gladis: Killer whale ‘traumatised by collision with a boat’ is TEACHING other orcas to attack yachts near Gibraltar – and has already sunk two vessels
- Scientists say the ringleader has shown other killer whales how to ram yachts
- The attacks have already sunk two vessels as sailors become increasingly wary
A vengeful killer whale thought to have been left traumatised by a collision with a boat has taught other orcas to attack other vessels around the coast of Gibraltar, scientists say.
Researchers believe the notorious female killer whale named White Gladis is taking her revenge on boats by coaching the other orcas, who have already caused two yachts to sink.
They think White Gladis was once left traumatised by an encounter with a boat, either colliding with the vessel or getting caught in illegal fishing nets – and that is the cause of her behaviour.
With the ringleader showing other members of the killer whale population how to ram the yachts, sailors may need to fear the prospect of orca attacks for many years to come.
An orca ambush of the coast of Gibraltar earlier this month lasted around an hour and left a Cambridge couple shocked and confused
An orca encroaches on a boat sailing near Gibraltar as its fin pushes out of the water. ‘We were sitting ducks,’ Janet Morris said of the attack.
Researchers believe the notorious female killer whale named White Gladis (pictured) is taking her revenge on boats by coaching other orcas who have already sunk two yachts
Earlier this month on May 2, around six orcas reportedly rammed into the hull of a Bavaria 46 cruiser yacht on the Strait of Gibraltar, off the coast of Tangier in Morocco.
The ambush lasted around an hour and left a Cambridge couple shocked and confused.
Janet Morris, 58, and Stephen Bidwell, 58, were on the yacht when they were alerted with the cry of ‘orcas!’.
Mr Bidwell told The Telegraph that it was ‘an experience I will never forget’.
‘I kept reminding myself we had a 22-ton boat made of steel, but seeing three of them coming at once, quickly and at pace with their fins out of the water was daunting.’
‘We were sitting ducks,’ Ms Morris added.
‘A clearly larger matriarch was definitely around and was almost supervising,’ Mr Bidwell said before speculating that it was the notorious ringleader White Gladis.
The captain of the ship Greg Blackburn, from Leeds, said he had read the reports of the matriarch and knew they were in for a ride. He said he dropped the mainsail to make the boat ‘as boring as possible’.
The group of whales and their gang leader eventually lost interest by caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.
An Orca encroaches upon the sailing boat during the hour long attack off the coast of Gibraltar on May 2
Two orcas pierce above the water near Gibraltar in May. The group of whales and their gang leader eventually lost interest by caused thousands of pounds worth of damage
Earlier this month on May 2, around six orcas (one pictured) rammed into the hull of a Bavaria 46 cruiser yacht on the Strait of Gibraltar
This is not the first time White Gladis is suspected of causing havoc on the Strait of Gibraltar, the sailing route between the Mediterranean and Gibraltar.
In November last year, a vessel off the coast of Viana do Castelo, Portugal, came under attack from orcas and cracked its hull.
A third boat came under attack and was dragged into the water after its rudder was knocked off near the Spanish coastline just two days after the attack near Gibraltar.
This time, two smaller whales helped ram the vessel, copying the tactics of a larger orca.
Captain Werner Schaufelberger told Yacht, a German sailing publication: ‘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.
‘The two little orcas observed the bigger one’s technique and – with a slight run-up – they, too, slammed into the boat.’
Janet Morris, 58, (right) and Stephen Bidwell, 58, (left) were on a yacht in Gibraltar in May when they were alerted with the cry of ‘orcas!’
‘We were sitting ducks,’ Janet Morris (pictured) said after their boat was ambmushed by killer whales
Chain damage was sustained during the Orca attack near Gibraltar earlier this month
The crew were rescued from the damaged boat but the vessel eventually sank at the port of Barbate.
Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist at the University of Aveiro, Portugal, and member of the Atlantic Orca working group said the attacks are likely a result of past trauma.
‘That traumatised orca is the one that started this behaviour of physical contact with the boat,’ he said.
A ‘critical moment of agony’ made White Gladis aggressive towards boats which is now being taught and copied by other orcas, the biologist told LiveScience.
Orcas are well known for being sociable creatures and can therefore learn easily from one another. Other scientists suggest the attacks may be due to the orcas becoming territorial or simply wanting to play.
These attacks have been increasingly frequent. In September 2022, authorities in Spain restricted vessels from sailing from the northwestern tip due to a staggering 29 reported orca attacks.
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