Although killer whales (also known as orcas) look beautiful and happy, they have a sad secret- they are endangered. We endangered these beautiful mammals by killing them for their oil.
Baby Killer Whales
When killer whales are born they weigh about 400 to 500 pounds. Their colors are black and orange until they mature, then they turn black and white. Female killer whales give birth to only one baby a year. It is very rare if twins are born. The killer whales and babies (or calves) travel in groups (or pods). When the calves are in danger from predators the adult killer whales in the pod form a circle around them. When they grow to be adults they weigh about 6-8 tons depending on the gender. They also grow 7-9 meters depending on the gender.
What Do They Eat? Do They Eat Humans?
Killer whales are only killers in the sea. They do not eat humans at all. In fact they bond easily with us. For the animals in the sea it is a whole different story. They eat about anything in the sea, even whales and sharks that are bigger than them! They don't have any major enemies, besides humans. Also you may think that these mammals are whales, like their name says, but in fact these astounding creatures are part of the dolphin family.
Orcas in Captivity
In 1965, a man named Ted Griffen heard that a killer whale was caught in a fishing net. He got the killer whale and brought it back to his marine park in Seattle. At first no one knew how the killer whale would respond, but to everyone’s surprise the killer whale was nice and seemed to like the humans. Ted named the killer whale Namu. Namu learned tricks and didn’t even mind that Ted rode on his back.
Now there are about 45 killer whales in marine parks. Some people believe that the killer whales should be freed back into the ocean. The trainers are learning new ways to care for them. From the whales in the marine parks scientists are noticing and learning new things about the killer whale that they would never learn from them in the wild.
Why Are They Endangered?
The killer whales are indeed endangered, but not close to being extinct. There are many reasons why they are endangered, and they all lead to humans. They do not harm us, so why do we harm them? Well, the fat or the blubber of the whales contains clear oil. That is what we kill them for. But why do we kill them for that? That same clear oil is used in most perfumes and some chap-sticks that we humans use everyday.
Another reason for their endangerment is the propellers of boats. The propellers hurt the killer whales by hitting them or by the force of them. The boats need to be 100 feet away from the killer whales to see them and they are not allowed to chase them.
Oil spills endanger the killer whales. Oil spills kill or hurt most of the animals in the ocean, including killer whales. The oil gets in their mouths and blowhole (the opening on a whale’s head through which it breathes, kind of like our nose). We know this because scientists were studying a pod. A large oil tanker sailing near Alaska (killer whales like cold places) hit a rock, and a hole was cut in the tanker. Oil spread, making the water black and slick. That pod swam through the oil. Oil covered the whales and got into their mouths and blowholes. A few days after the spill, the scientist found that there were seven missing. Killer whales leaving their pod are very rare, and pods only lose up to couple whales a year. This makes scientists think that the seven that were missing died from the oil.
It is sad to know that they are endangered, but it is good to know that they are in no danger of becoming extinct. We know that the oil spills are by accident. The oil could kill the killer whales food (if they weren't killed) so we need to be more careful.