False Killer Whales


This has been an exciting week! Several of our boats have spotted false killer whales in the area and I was lucky enough to be on board when the Ocean Odyssey found them on Monday! As soon as I got on the boat, the captain notified me that the false killer whales had been spotted earlier that morning. He checked to make sure I had a good camera with me. Getting photo identification of these odontocetes is one of our research goals and the captain wanted to make sure I was ready.  As we got closer to the area where the false killer whales were spotted, the captain told me to get a good spot and get ready to take a lot of photos. Thank goodness for his warning! Within minutes the false killer whales all around the boat. There were at least 30 of them spread out in all directions.  This spread out behavior and lack of playful activities suggests that they may have been hunting for food. The false killer whales kept me on my toes as I tried to get ID photos. They showed up in front, behind to the left, to the right, all over! We even noticed some of them swimming around a group of humpback whales in the area.
I was able to get a lot of good identification photos of their dorsal fins. When I brought the photos back to the research lab, Itana—who is in charge of our false killer whale  photo identification catalog—said she even recognized a few of the false killer whales! Very exciting. After the photos are processed and entered into the catalog we’ll be able to learn more about the Hawaiian insular false killer whale population. This population of false killer whales is unique to Hawaii. It is believed that there are fewer than 123 of them left and of these only 46 are capable of breeding. I’m glad I was able to get ID photos that could potentially help us learn more about this beautiful group of animals. It was very special to see such rare animals and to see so many!