Killer whales ‘teach’ each other to sink boats as experts fear ‘orca uprising’

Killer whales have started "teaching" each other how to bash boats off the Spanish coast as experts fear the orcas may be plotting an "uprising".

A spate of attacks on water-bound vehicles have been attributed to the aquatic mammals in recent years – since the spring of 2021, at least five boats have sunk because of orca attacks, reports The Guardian. Earlier this year the Daily Star reported one particularly vengeful killer whale, Gladis, had been teaching others to sink yachts around Gibraltar.

It was believed Gladis' vendetta began after she was hit by a boat or trapped in an illegal fishing net. Other whales then started copying her, damaging several boats by crashing into their hulls and rudders.

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"That traumatised orca is the one that started this behaviour of physical contact with the boat," Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and a representative of the Atlantic Orca working group, said at the time.

It's triggered fears the attacks could lead to an all-out "orca uprising" as the animals continue to mimic each other's behaviour. But wildlife expert Frankie Hobro from Anglesey Sea Zoo reckons the phenomenon may peter out on its own.

"This may turn out to be a passing fad which eventually peters out when these animals decide to move on to something else to occupy their curiosity or when they consistently haven't had whatever result or reaction they want, or even when they have had that result sufficiently often to decide to move on to something new," Hobro told the Daily Star.

"It could be carried out in fun, frustration from a previous bad encounter or simply curiosity, as these are incredibly intelligent and complex animals and there are many aspects of their interactions and behaviour that we don’t completely understand."

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Hobro explained orcas are extremely social creatures and have complex communication networks, which could explain their ability to teach one another their violent tricks. Asked whether an orca could really be schooling other killer whales on the best boat-sinking techniques, Hobro added: "We know that orcas live in tight social groups comprising family members led by a matriarch.

"The experience and behaviour of one orca will be passed on and replicated by others in the group, and several pod members will deliberately work together and assist one another.

"We may not understand the reason for this recent behaviour towards boats but I can guarantee that every member of the orca pod knows exactly what they are doing and why!"

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