It has been revealed why killer whales attack boats and sink luxury yachts. Unexpected results of the study

Anna BoklajukNews
Orcas attack boats and sink luxury yachts

In recent years, killer whales have been regularly ramming and sinking luxury yachts in European waters. So scientists have been trying to figure out why these intelligent, social animals have learned this new destructive trick.

The results of the study showed that this behavior is not related to the fight for territory and aggression. The truth is that coordinated attacks on ships are probably a joke fashion among bored teenage killer whales, The Washington Post writes.

Since 2020, members of a small group of killer whales have crashed into at least 673 ships off the coasts of Portugal, Spain, and Morocco, causing some of them to sink. The Spanish and Portuguese governments have commissioned a group of experts to determine what caused the whales to behave so aggressively and how to stop it.

It has been revealed why killer whales attack boats and sink luxury yachts. Unexpected results of the study

After years of research, a team of biologists, government officials, and representatives of the marine industry have released their findings on why one particular group of Orcinus killer whales has developed this destructive behavior. And it turns out that killer whales - especially children and adolescents - just want to have fun. The report shows that a combination of free time, curiosity, and natural playfulness has led young killer whales to adopt this "trend" of bumping into boats because they just want to have fun, and in the vast - and rather empty - open waters, boats are first-class toys.

"It looks like a game. Obviously, it's a very dangerous game they're playing. But it's a game," said Naomi Rose, a senior researcher at the Animal Welfare Institute who was part of the working group.

An interesting game for an orca to play that is dangerous and frightening for people on a boat, as this video from The Ocean Race in 2023 shows.

In most cases, scientists have found that killer whales approaching boats come from a group of about 15 whales, mostly young ones. They usually approach slowly, as if they just want to bump their noses and heads against the rudder. But even young killer whales have an average length of 2 to 4.5 meters, so the rudders are often damaged or destroyed when the whales touch them.

"There is nothing in the behavior of the animals to indicate that they are aggressive. When they play with the rudder, they don't realize that they can damage the rudder and that damaging the rudder will affect people. It's more playful than intentional," said Alex Zerbini, who chairs the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission, the global body dedicated to whale conservation, and is also a member of the working group.

It is not yet clear why killer whales are attracted to rudders or how they became interested in them in the first place. However, Zerbini believes it may have started with one curious young orca who may have been fascinated by the bubbles around a moving ship.

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