The stranded orca is believed to be about three to four years old.
Whales are a relatively common sight to see around Scotland’s Orkney Islands, but a beached whale is a pretty rare scene. That being said, locals were shocked when an orca washed ashore the Bay of Newark, but volunteers, local residents, and conservation group British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) teamed up to save the creature making for an extremely rare success story.
The young 11-foot-long male orca, was initially spotted crying out for help from a distance, and was thought to be a dolphin stranded on the sand. Conveniently, the UK’s leading marine life rescue team, BDMLR, is based in Orkney and came to the whale’s rescue.
Emma Neave-Webb, from BDMLR, helped in the rescue mission and told ITV News that the young orca had possibly become stuck after feeding in shallow waters when the tide went out. The animal was lying on its side parallel to the sea, making it hard for it to swim to freedom.
Luckily, the BDMLR team recruited some caring local residents to help them turn the whale so that it was upright and its blowhole was out of the water, making it easier for it to breathe. They then turned it to face the sea as the tide came in and placed it on a dolphin stretcher.
“After about an hour and with help from local residents to stabilize the animal, it suddenly took matters into its own fins and made a move to swim off,” BDMLR wrote. “Unable to hold the animal any longer, the stretcher was lowered and the orca swam forward straight out towards the open sea. It rolled a couple of times and then submerged and continued straight out away from the beach without looking back.”
According to Wildlife Florida, whales most often get stranded ashore if they’re sick, injured, or old. Weather conditions can also play a major role in their poor navigational judgements, and occasionally, whales simply make a wrong turn while hunting or swimming. Certain species are scientifically more prone to beaching than others, but tragically this can often lead to fatal dehydration for the poor whales.
Climate researchers have also looked at climate change as a contributor to whales beaching. Many have suggested that changes in water temperature may cause an influx of beachings. Others have also proposed that boats can affect whales’ echolocation abilities, which throws off their inner GPS and can therefore lead to them making a wrong turn.
Medics think the orca will survive out in the sea, since it had fed recently and was in good condition. However, they are monitoring the shore to make sure the stranded orca, who is estimated to be around three to four years old, does not get stranded again.
What a story to start 2021, eh?
[Featured Image: Unsplash]