Killer whales were trapped through a small opening in the middle of a sea ice in Japan, according to reports earlier this week. The incident, involving at least 10 orcas, occurred in drift ice off the East Asian country’s main island of Hokkaido. The struggle of the large marine mammals was caught on video which went viral in both local and international media. It also raised concerns from environmental groups.
Local authorities have presumed the trapped killer whales managed to safely escape from the solid chunks of ice, which is reportedly caused by a “lack of wind” in the region. Despite the wildlife ordeal, the orca pod, including calves, were nowhere to be seen in the spot that was initially spotted by a local fisherman. It was also the angler who reported to authorities of the trapped orcas, all of which apparently survived.
Trapped Killed Whales in Sea Ice
Footage of the trapped killer whales in sea ice (caught by a drone) was uploaded on YouTube on Wednesday, February 7, showing the ocean’s apex predators were poking their heads out through a small section where the sea ice broke up. The orcas were also taking turns to breathe air from the atmosphere, which they are unable to do so underwater.
Local sources reported the fisherman who witnessed the trapped pod of killer whales informed local officials in the nearby town of Rausu on Tuesday morning, February 6. The officials returned to the coast on Tuesday evening and noticed the pod moved to the north. However, the group was gone when they returned to the area again on Wednesday morning.
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Can Orcas Survive Out of Water?
Unlike fish and other sea animals equipped with gills, killer whales need to breathe air on the surface of the water through their nostrils, called blowholes. Since orcas, as well as dolphins, belong to the class Mammalia like humans, they breathe air into their lungs. It is also for this reason why we see these marine animals jumping out of the water or staying on its surface from time to time.
Whales and dolphins breathe just by exposing the top of their heads to the air even while they are resting or swimming under the water, according to the non-profit charity organization Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC). Large mammalian whales have two blowholes, while dolphins only have one. The amount of time they can hold air underwater varies individually but takes several minutes, in general.
The orca (Orcinus orca), also called killer whale, can be found in all of the world’s oceans. They are most abundant in the cold waters of Antarctica, Alaska, and Norway, as well as in the waters of the tropics and subtropics, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Yet, there are also instances where killer whales are spotted from the polar regions to the warmer waters of the Equator.
Related Article: Ship Captain Attacked by Killer Whales Off Spain Debunks Theory Orcas are Out for Revenge
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