Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Killer whales teaching their calves to hunt Common dolphins

These spectacular images capture one of the rarest sights of the seas - a killer whale attacking a dolphin.

Dive expert Rainer Schimpf says both species are a common sight off Algoa Bay, near Port Elizabeth in South Africa, where he took the pictures.

For years he had heard fishermen's tales of killer whales (or orcas) coming to Port Elizabeth to hunt for dolphins, and decided to carry out his own research to find out if the rumours were true.

"Orcas are usually seen in Algoa Bay in the middle of April and spend around two weeks here," Mr Schimpf explains.

"At the same time around 1,000 common dolphins are also in the area so it is a perfect diving environment to see these amazing animals.

"However this year we noticed the common dolphins were more and more difficult to find.
"Then on May 2 a small group of common dolphins came towards the boat. As they came closer I realised something had been separating them."

"Shortly after I saw the first of five orcas - three adults and two babies," he said.

"More astonishing was the fact that they were playing with the dolphin, teaching their young how to hunt. The parents breached the water with the dolphins to show the baby how to kill and survive - the male orca even managed to snare one of the dolphins and feed it to his young.

"The whole act lasted around half an hour - it was an unbelievable sight."

Together with the Great White Shark, the Orca is the top predator of the oceans. Males can grow up to 26 ft long and weigh up to 8 tonnes, with their mouths containing up to 50 dagger-like teeth. However their common name is deceptive, as this cetacean is not a whale, but a dolphin.

They are known to usually feed on fish such as herrings, mackerels, salmons, tuna, cod, and even sharks. However there have been rare reports of orca attacks on sea mammals, like walruses, seals, dolphins and toothed whales such as narwahls.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"