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Independent AfricaSailing yacht sinks in orca collision off Moroccan Coast


Sailing yacht sinks in orca collision off Moroccan Coast


According to Spain’s maritime rescue services, a sailing yacht named Alboran Cognac sank in Moroccan waters in the Strait of Gibraltar after colliding with an unknown number of orcas.

The incident occurred at 0900 local time (0800 BST) on Sunday. Fortunately, two individuals aboard the vessel were rescued by a passing oil tanker.

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This event is part of a series of orca rammings of vessels in the area over the past four years. Scientists are uncertain about the exact reasons behind this behavior but speculate that the highly intelligent mammals may be exhibiting “copycat” or “playful” actions.

The passengers on the yacht reported feeling sudden impacts to the hull and rudder, resulting in water entering the vessel. They promptly alerted emergency services and were rescued by the oil tanker, which transported them to Gibraltar. Unfortunately, the yacht was left adrift and eventually sank.

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These orca rammings have become increasingly common in the Strait of Gibraltar, one of the world’s busiest waterways, with around 300 ships crossing daily. Similar incidents have also been reported off the Atlantic coast of Portugal and north-western Spain.

A subpopulation of approximately 15 orcas, known as “Gladis,” is believed to be behind the attacks, according to experts.

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Since the attacks were initially reported in May 2020, the research group GTOA, which monitors the Iberian orca sub-species population, has documented nearly 700 interactions involving the species.

The attacks are thought to have begun after one or two orcas, also known as killer whales, began engaging with and damaging small sailing vessels during that month.

A prevailing theory circulated on social media suggests that the orcas are seeking revenge for White Gladis, a killer whale purportedly struck by a boat. This speculation gained traction when Alfredo López Fernández, from the research group GTOA, mentioned a “traumatized orca” instigating the attacks. However, animal behavior experts caution that this narrative may not be accurate.

“The idea of revenge is a great story, but there’s no evidence for it,” neuroscientist Lori Marino, president of the Whale Sanctuary Project previously told the BBC.

“There’s never been a case of an orca harming a human being in the wild.

“If they really wanted to do damage and harm the people on the boat they could easily do that.”

Instead, Lori told the BBC, it’s more likely the apparent attacks “started out as play behaviour”, and it’s a case of copycat killer whales rather than aggression.

“We’re talking about very intelligent beings, and we know that they are social learners,” she says.

Scientists think the endangered mammals instead appear to be “playing” with the boats out of curiosity and copycat behaviour, rather than aggression.

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