Scores of disemboweled sharks have washed up on a South African beach, putting the spotlight on a pair of shark-hunting killer whales whose behavior has fascinated scientists and wildlife enthusiasts.
Marine biologists were alerted to the find by beach walkers who stumbled upon the grim sight last week in Gansbaai, a small fishing port 150km southeast of Cape Town.
“The dead sharks are torn open at the pelvic girdle, they have orca teeth marks known as rake marks on their pectoral fins and their liver is missing,” said Alison Towner, 37, a shark scientist with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.
All evidence points to “Port” and “Starboard,” an infamous pair of killer whales spotted off Gansbaai only three days earlier. Recognizable by their twisted dorsal fins, the animals are well known to locals as having developed a penchant for sharks.
“We found in total 20 sharks,” said Ralph Watson, 33, a marine biologist with local conservation and diving group Marine Dynamics.
The victims included 19 broad nosed sevengill sharks and one spotted gully shark, he said.
Towner said the slaughter was noticeable as it was the first time that Port and Starboard had hunted those species in the area and “so many of them washed out after one visit.”
Yet, it was not the orcas’ most daring hunt.
Experts credited the duo with having caused white sharks, one of the world’s largest sea predators, to disappear from some of the waters near Cape Town.
Last year, Starboard and another four orcas were captured on camera chasing and killing a great white off Mossel Bay, a southern port town.
The unusual behavior had never been witnessed in detail before.
Orcas, the ocean’s apex predator, usually hunt dolphins in those parts and have been known to prey on smaller shark species, but evidence of attacks on great whites was previously limited.
Port and Starboard were first spotted near Cape Town in 2015.
“They probably came from somewhere else. West Africa, east Africa, the Southern Ocean, we don’t know,” said 45-year-old Simon Elwen, who heads Sea Search, a scientific collective.
Unlike other killer whales, the pair likes to hunt near the coast — something that has made their peculiar fins a common sight in the region.
“Within southern Africa, Port and Starboard have been seen from as far west as Namibia to as far east as Port Elizabeth,” Elwen said.
The marine mammals’ killing technique is “surgical,” added Watson, adding that the pair target the sharks’ liver, “a very nutritious organ, full of oils.”
“They tear open the pectoral girdle chest area ... then the liver flops out,” Watson said.
Last year’s video showing Starboard in action has worried biologists, as it suggests the practice is spreading, with studies having established that the black and white animals have the capacity to teach hunting techniques.
Some Antarctic orcas use the cunning tactic of hunting in packs and making waves to wash seals off floating ice, researchers have found.
In the Antarctic two orca populations — not subspecies, but different groups that overlap at the margins — used very different hunting techniques, taught across generations.
Such behavior is not hard-wired, but learned — one of the arguments for suggesting that whales have “culture.”’
In the clip, the other four orcas shown were not known to have attacked white sharks before.
“This is now an additional threat to shark populations on coastal South Africa,” Towner said.
Elwen said it was “fascinating, and frustrating” to see “a rare, endangered animal killing another endangered species.”
Still, the overall danger Port and Starboard posed to South Africa’s shark population remains very limited.
Hundreds of thousands of sharks are fished out of the sea every year, Watson said.
“Two killer whales are not going to wipe out a species,” Elwen said.
The US and the Philippines plan to announce new sites as soon as possible for an expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which gives the Western power access to military bases in the Southeast Asian country. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr last month granted the US access to four military bases, on top of five existing locations under the 2014 EDCA, amid China’s increasing assertiveness regarding the South China Sea and Taiwan. Speaking at the Basa Air Base in Manila, one of the existing EDCA sites, US Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said the defense agreements between the two countries
CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS: The US destroyer’s routine operations in the South China Sea would have ‘serious consequences,’ the defense ministry said China yesterday threatened “serious consequences” after the US Navy sailed a destroyer around the disputed Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) in the South China Sea for the second day in a row, in a move Beijing claimed was a breach of its sovereignty and security. The warning came amid growing tensions between China and the US in the region, as Washington pushes back at Beijing’s growingly assertive posture in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway it claims virtually in its entirety. On Thursday, after the US sailed the USS Milius guided-missile destroyer near the Paracel Islands, China said its navy and
‘DUAL PURPOSE’: Upgrading the port is essential for the Solomon Islands’ economy and might not be military focused, but ‘it is not about bases, it is about access,’ an analyst said The Solomon Islands has awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a Chinese state company to upgrade an international port in Honiara in a project funded by the Asian Development Bank, a Solomon Islands official said yesterday. China Civil Engineering Construction Co (CCECC) was the only company to submit a bid in the competitive tender, Solomon Islands Ministry of Infrastructure Development official Mike Qaqara said. “This will be upgrading the old international port in Honiara and two domestic wharves in the provinces,” Qaqara said. Responding to concerns that the port could be deepened for Chinese naval access, he said there would be “no expansion.” The Solomon
Seven stories above a shop floor hawking cheap perfume and nylon underwear, Thailand’s “shopping mall gorilla” sits alone in a cage — her home for 30 years despite a reignited row over her captivity. Activists around the world have long campaigned for the primate to be moved from Pata Zoo, on top of a Bangkok mall, with singer Cher and actor Gillian Anderson adding their voices in 2020. However, the family who owns Bua Noi — whose name translates as “little lotus” — have resisted public and government pressure to relinquish the critically endangered animal. The gorilla has lived at Pata for more