Animals Are Learning From Each Other How To Attack Humans
According to a new report, orca whales are sinking boats off the coast of Europe in what seems like an organized campaign.
They call them killer whales for a reason. According to a recent write-up in Live Science, orca whales have been sinking boats off the coast of Europe, apparently following the lead of a traumatized whale who likely initiated the first attack after being harmed by sailors. These animal attacks have seafarers on high alert, and appear to be following a distinct pattern in which pods of whales emerge from the stern of the sailing vessels and strike at the rudder like raptors cornering their prey in a Jurassic Park film.
Since the first of these animal attacks was documented in 2020, the killer whales have only become more brazen in their assaults, causing three boats to sink in the span of as many years. Of course, as biologists at the University of Aveiro in Portugal such as Alfredo Lopez Fernandez have stated, these attacks represent an incredibly small sample size of human interaction with the wild creatures. Most orcas are gentle giants in regard to their relationships with humans, and as Fernandez points out there have been over 500 peaceful interactions with the whales during the time the boats have been attacked.
Of course, it is disconcerting to researchers that the animal attacks appear to be a learned behavior that has spread through the whale’s culture. Orca whales are incredibly social creatures, and some behaviors, such as attacking boats, can be taught to friends and colleagues among their pods, and passed down to children as an important right of passage. This could mean that pods of young orcas don’t even hold any malice toward the boats or the people they are attacking, but simply see the activity as a bonding exercise after having witnessed adult whales doing it in their youth.
Marine researchers have still not been able to pinpoint what exactly sparked this wildfire of assaults from the killer whale community, though the leading theory that the whale who initiated contact with the first vessel was a victim of unlawful fishing practices seems to grow more valid with each passing day. The spurned whale who began this John Wick style revenge rampage seems to be a female orca researchers have named White Gladis, with Fernandez stating that the initial animal attack was performed in response to her suffering a “critical moment of agony.”
Since then, some groups of whales have interpreted the behavior as a call to action, sinking another pair of vessels in the following two years.
The animal attacks have, of course, been detrimental to sailors and orcas alike, with four Iberian orcas being found dead since 2020, likely as a result of this dangerous practice. The whales’ pattern of ramming into the rudder of the ships obviously damages the vessels, sometimes enough to sink them entirely, but it is also incredibly harmful for the whale’s head, which can sustain major trauma after reaching underwater speeds of over 35 miles per hour. For now, things seem a bit bleak in the world of marine research, but in the infamous words of former United States President George W. Bush, “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”