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Vengeful killer whales teaching young to attack boats in Gibraltar

Gangs of orcas are seemingly being taught to attack yachts off the coast of Gibraltar, and scientists believe one killer whale is leading the efforts to strike boats.

While The Telegraph suggests the story “may read like something out of Moby Dick” the consequences are far more serious than fiction for those who are sailing in the area.

The newspaper cited an incident on 2 May involving six of the marine mammals having “slammed” into the hull of a yacht near Tangier in Morocco in an “hour-long attack”.

Janet Morris, 58, was left awe-struck by the encounter, as she told The Telegraph she and her partner were left as “sitting ducks” while the attack occurred.

Experts believe the ringleader of the vengeful operation is one female orca, nicknamed White Gladis. Futurism described the killer whale as a “chaotic legend”, but warned if the situation escalates it could prove “dangerous for sailors and orcas” alike. 

Other scientists appear to concur, reported Live Science, with some suggesting this behaviour has been spreading through the orca population using “social learning”. 

Experts suspect White Gladis suffered a “critical moment of agony” as a direct result of a distressing event such as a collision with a boat or being caught up in illegal fishing activities.

Consequently, biologist Alfredo Lopez Fernandez explained to the website: “That traumatised orca is the one that started this behaviour of physical contact with the boat.”

The true motivations for the violent tendencies of the orcas remain unclear, according to Luke Rendell at the University of St. Andrews. 

He told the The Conversation there is a “puzzle” yet to be solved by biologists to determine how this behaviour first came about, as there are “multiple accounts of single and groups of orcas developing idiosyncratic and not obviously adaptive habits”.

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