Fridays are for the Party Animals and this Friday's Party Animal is the Orca a/k/a Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)! I recently returned from my second trip to observe and photograph the Orcas of Peninsula Valdes in the Patagonia region of Argentina. These Orcas have developed a hunting technique of "stranding" themselves on the beach in order to hunt sea lion pups in very shallow water. The Orcas in Peninsula Valdes are the only Orcas in the world to employ this hunting technique. The technique is a testament to the intelligence of the Orcas in at least a couple of ways. First, the ability to employ the technique is dependent on a number of variables including the time of year, the tide, the wind speed and the wind direction. The Orcas will not even attempt the technique if the conditions are not just right. Moreover, the technique is handed down from generation to generation with actual "instruction" and "practice" sessions. I spent an entire morning last week watching the older Orcas teach the younger ones the technique and later in the day I watched them practice the technique over and over again. Over the course of the trip, I was lucky enough to see 3 of the younger Orcas make their first successful (witnesssed) attacks. It was a truly amazing thing to witness!
This photo is of the first witnessed attack by a young Orca named Conki. I framed the photo to include the beach in order to show how shallow the water is where this attack occurred. In fact, Conki's body is actually resting on the beach and he will use the surge of the next several waves and will wiggle and flip his tail to get back into deep enough water to swim away. If you look closely, you can see that Conki has one sea lion pup in his mouth and that another sea lion pup is trying to get out of the water as fast as possible.
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