Hope the False Killer Whale

The Story of Hope

Hope is a false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) first sighted by Pacific Whale Foundation on Valentine’s Day 2011 near Ma’alaea Harbor in a pod of 15 animals associating with a humpback whale. Hope was sighted on March 30, 2013 while the Pacific Whale Foundation Research Team was performing transect studies. Once again, he was in a pod of 15 animals and we are using the pronoun “he” loosely as the sex of Hope is undetermined. It is very difficult to ascertain the sex of false killer whales, and other cetaceans, without looking at their undersides or positively connecting them to a calf. The Pacific Whale Foundation Research Team sighted Hope again on March 20, 2014, once again while performing transect studies. This time hope was in a pod of 8 animals.

There are two populations of false killer whales in Hawaiian waters: an offshore population and an insular (island-associated) population. Both populations have experienced a decline due to multiple threats including fisheries interactions, ingestion of marine debris, and exposure to anthropogenic noise pollution. Due in large part to these threats, the insular population has recently been listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The social ecology and behavior of false killer whales is poorly understood. The research team at Pacific Whale Foundation research project on the social structure of False Killer Whales is focused on using photo-identification to increase our knowledge allowing us to better manage and protect this species.

Using line transect surveys, researchers search for pods of false killer whales. Once a pod has been sighted, the researchers leave the transect line to gather detailed behavioral observations of the pod for a length of time up to 60 minutes. During this time they also take identification photos of the dorsal fins and sides of the animals.

These photos allow us to build a photo-identification catalog for false killer whales to estimate the number of individuals and examine how those animals move at large and small scales within their habitat. Our photo-identification catalog currently contains over 80 individuals dating back to 1996. The catalog is also used to maintain a history of sightings for all of our false killer whales available for adoption.

The research department will continue this study through 2018 and continue to build upon the existing photo-identification catalog. Your adoption of Hope helps fund this important research study and we thank you for your support.