Enigmatic Orcas

Up until last year, we had an average of approximately 98% white shark sightings on our trips over the course of the year. However, roughly a year ago, two orcas started to intermittently visit the bay and began predating on the white sharks, which caused the sharks to flee from the area after the predation attacks. Each time they began to come back after a few weeks (2 to 6), only to be attacked again and disappear.

We lost 5 great whites to orcas over a period of 6 months – a huge and tragic blow to our already threatened population. A study carried out over five years and published in 2016 revealed that there are most likely only between 350 and 522 great whites left along the South African coastline – which means that over the last year we have lost 1% of our population or more. The orcas have been absent for a couple of months now and, based on several recent sightings, the great whites seem to be making their way slowly back into the bay.

Apart from the appearance and prolonged stay of the orcas, another strange phenomenon is that in the absence of the white sharks, a population of copper sharks (also known as bronze whaler sharks) has taken up residence in the bay. This is particularly odd in light of the fact that this is usually a migratory species. But I’ll get back to the ‘bronzies’ in another blog – let’s keep the focus on orcas for now. Here are some fast facts about these formidable animals.

 

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