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Task force hunt White Gladis & lieutenants after yachts smashed in Gibraltar

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AN ORCA task force has been tracking the vengeful White Gladis and her ruthless gang who have been smashing yachts off the coast of Gibraltar.

Rogue killer whales have been attacking seafarers and sinking vessels in the Strait of Gibraltar for at least three years now.

The moment a killer whale surrounded a tourist boat before attacking it off the coast of Sesimbra, Portugal in 2023

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The moment a killer whale surrounded a tourist boat before attacking it off the coast of Sesimbra, Portugal in 2023
Another orca circled a small boat and slammed the vessel in an hour-long attack last year near Morocco

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Another orca circled a small boat and slammed the vessel in an hour-long attack last year near Morocco
Orcas surrounded a yacht and rammed it repeatedly during an attack near Ibiza
Orcas surrounded a yacht and rammed it repeatedly during an attack near Ibiza

Just last Sunday, a pod of orcas pummeled the 50ft Alboran Cognac with two people onboard.

Passengers onboard the vessel said they felt sudden blows to the hull before it started sinking in the Moroccan waters.

They were rescued by a nearby oil tanker which dropped them to Gibraltar after receiving emergency alerts.

The 50ft yacht was left abandoned before it sank completely.

Orca attacks on boats travelling through the Strait of Gibraltar – also known as Orca Alley – were first reported in 2020.

These ambushes, which range from orcas simply approaching boats to actively interfering with them, have repeatedly occurred in the stretch of water between Spain and Morocco.

After studying extensive footage, experts believe that more than half of these attacks were led by the traumatised White Gladis along with pals Black Gladis and Grey Gladis.

A nature conservation group called the Atlantic Orca Task Force (GTOA) has been tracking these killer whales attacking the vessels.

The organisation reported a 298% rise in orca-boat interactions with 673 such cases recorded between 2020 and 2024.

These also include instances where no contact between the orcas and the boats was made.

Authorities noticed a steady uptick in incidents and restricted boats from sailing from the tip of Spain due to a staggering 29 reported orca attacks in four months.

While monitoring, the group reported seven shipwrecks – five of which were yachts and two fishing vessels – as a result of the direct attacks.

Rui Alves, another orca enthusiast, launched a website called orcas.pt to monitor these attacks.

According to the tracking system, there was at least one killer whale encounter every single day in the area in June last year.

“We are having one incident every day, on average. There are days we have two or three,” Alves said in an interview with PBS.

In what is being called an “Orca uprising”, scientists fear White Gladis could possibly be teaching other whales – especially calves – how to attack and sink boats passing through the channel.

The female orca started ramming boats in the summer of 2020 and later gave birth to her calf in 2021, LiveScience reports.

And as orca pregnancies usually last for almost 15 months, scientists believe she was pregnant when she started attacking the vessels.

What baffled scientists is that mum orcas typically look after newborn calves for at least two years – providing them with food and safety.

But ramming yachts and tearing off rudders of small boats is something not expected from a new mum like White Gladis.

The unusual behaviour led scientists to believe something “unusual happened” with the killer shark that forced her to go rogue.

Why are orcas attacking boats?

WHILE researchers are unsure exactly why killer whales have been attacking boats in the strait, many theories have been put forward.

Some experts suggest it could be a playful manifestation of the animals’ curiosity.

But others fear a “critical moment of agony” such as a collision may have sparked aggression towards boats.

Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal, told  LiveScience: “That traumatized orca is the one that started this behaviour of physical contact with the boat.”

Some even speculate White Gladis may now be spurring fellow killer whales on.

Orcas are the largest members of the oceanic dolphin family.

Although they never attack humans, the apex predators can take down large groups of whales, hence the name killer.

What makes them a unique marine mammal is that they often hunt in lethal pods and family groups of up to 40 individuals – and feast on fish, dolphins, seal lions, seals, sharks and stingrays.

The carnivores can grow up to 32feet long and weigh up to six tons – and are immediately recognizable by their distinctive black-and-white colouring.

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