Revenge of the killer whales? Recent boat attacks might be driven by trauma

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are increasingly targeting yachts along Europe’s Iberian coast and some researchers speculate that trauma might drive their behavior.

The intrigue: These encounters between orcas and boats have sunk at least three vessels and damaged dozens of others over the years.
* A June 2022 study reports that orcas have increased the frequency of their interactions with sailing vessels in and around the Strait of Gibraltar.

Possible explanation: Some scientists believe these incidents are not attacks but rather playful behavior, while others suggest a trauma-driven motive.
* Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist and co-author of the study, thinks the behavior might be due to a traumatizing encounter experienced by a female orca called White Gladis.
* However, Monika Wieland Shields, director of the Orca Behavior Institute, and Deborah Giles, the science and research director at Wild Orca, remain skeptical of the “revenge” hypothesis.

Relevant numbers: Since 2020, there have been more than 500 encounters between yachts and orcas in the area, involving a group of around 40 animals led by White Gladis.

View original article on NPR

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