Young Killer Whales Take On a Shark; They Are Not Playing With Their Food

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The young New Zealand orcas in the video below appear to be learning how to kill a shark as they circle it and take turns lashing out with their tail flukes.
According to New Zealand orca expert, Dr. Ingrid Visser, sharks are a standard part of the whales’ diet there – she has been studying this population of killer whales for decades, and has observed them killing 4 species of rays and 9 species of sharks. In each case the whales showing a remarkable level of cooperation and cunning that requires careful practice.
The following video was taken by people who happened upon the scene, it does  look like whale school is in session!

“Just outside Waikawa Bay in the Marlborough Sounds, NZ, we spotted these Orca teaching the juveniles how to kill this shark. We think it might be a Broadnose Sevengill Shark – but, we’re not experts!!” Michael Cropp

Orca and shark, photo by Orca Research Trust.
Orca and shark, photo by Orca Research Trust.

“They definitely are not playing” Dr. Visser reports, “the group includes an adult male known as ‘Moby’ and the females are known to me as well”. In this 2009 article, Dr. Visser describes the whales’ hunting technique:

But to make sure they don’t end up seriously injured when attacking such dangerous prey, the orcas spend years perfecting the various techniques and watching more experienced adults demonstrate how to do it properly.
‘The most impressive strategy is the ‘karate chop’,” said expert Dr Ingrid Visser, 43, who has studied orca behaviour for 17 years.
‘The orca will use its tail to drive the shark to the surface. They don’t even touch it. Using an up-thrust of its tail it creates a vortex which pushes the shark up on the current they create with their movements.
‘Once the shark is at the surface, the killer whale pivots and lifts its tail out of the water and comes down on top of it like a karate chop.’

In this article sharks beached themselves to escape orcas in New Zealand, and orcas in other parts of the world have been documenting taking sharks as well, but none are so well-studied as the New Zealand population.
In this video Dr. Visser documents how orcas catch deadly rays:

Please check out Dr. Visser’s website, and if you have recovered from holiday expenses please do consider making a donation so that she can keep researching and rescuing (several have beached themselves) these unique orcas.

Dr. Visser regularly swims with the wild orcas in New Zealand and has watched many of them grow up.
Dr. Visser regularly swims with the wild orcas in New Zealand .

Please report all New Zealand orca sightings to the Orca Research Trust at “0800 SEE ORCA” (o800-733-6722).
The Orca Research Trust is located on the Tutukaka Coast, Northland, New Zealand.

The Orca Research Trust does not receive funding from the Government.  We rely solely on donations, so your help definitely makes a difference.  Thank you for your support.

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