It’s Orca season! We’ve had Orca sightings in the bay a few times in the last couple of weeks, and we always get the same question – do Orcas eat humans? The answer is NO! There is no record of humans ever being attacked by Orca in the wild. Here are some Orca facts….
Orca, also known as Killer Whales, are actually part of the dolphin family! The name killer whale comes from old fishermen referring to them as ‘whale killer’, after observing their hunting behaviour. Orca in Antarctica sometimes hunt and eat juvenile whales, along with small sharks, octopus, fish, squid… They aren’t picky! Orca around New Zealand love sting rays, which is why we often see them come right in to the harbour and Pilot Bay to hunt them!
There are around 150-200 Orca that live around New Zealand. They can each be identified by the shape of their pectoral fin (the big fin on their back) and the shape and brightness of the white marks behind their eyes and on their back. Males have a very long, straight dorsal fin, sometimes as long as 5ft, and females have a smaller, curved fin. The males can grow up to 9 meters in length! But it’s the females that live the longest, living to about 90 years old. The oldest Orca ever recorded lived to 104 years old.
Orca are highly intelligent, and like other dolphins they communicate with each other using clicks and whistles, and hunt using echolocation. This is really helpful in dark deeper waters, or murky shallow water. They can also tell what kind of prey it is, and whether it is a human or a seal! So there really is no need to be afraid of Orcas.. They are just big playful dolphins!