Researchers observing killer whales hunting near Gansbaai in South Africa have recorded 17 dead sharks after a single killing spree. The pair of perpetrators—who are known to scientists and have been given the names “Port” and “Starboard”—are notorious for attacking sharks in the area, but this is the largest kill in one sitting.
Writing on the Marine Dynamics Facebook page, marine biologist and guide Ralph Watson is quoted as saying, “We observed the two orcas repeatedly diving down in a small area for almost two hours before they departed offshore.” A few days later, Watson and his team from the Marine Dynamics Academy retrieved 11 broadnose sevengill shark carcasses from the same beach, with more following over the ensuing days.
Leading the research on orcas preying on sharks in Gansbaai is Alison Towner, a PhD candidate at Rhodes University. “Each sevengill shark was torn open and missing its liver,” said Towner, who joined Watson to perform necropsies on the animals. “They were all females measuring between 1.6–2.3 meters [approx. 5–7 feet] and had similar injuries to those killed in False Bay [northwest of Gansbaai] by the same orca pair.”
What’s more, the orcas in the area don’t only have a taste for sevengill shark livers. Since 2017, scientists have recorded eight great white shark carcasses washed up on beaches near Gansbaai. The sharks had orca tooth impressions on their pectoral fins. Seven of the great whites had their livers removed—and some even had their hearts missing.
Gansbaai is considered a great white hotspot, and there are numerous cage-diving operations in the area, but researchers have documented fewer sightings of the sharks since the arrival of the bloodthirsty pair of orcas. It seems Port and Starboard’s killing spree is far from over.
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