Orcas, or killer whales, are marine mammals that are found in all the oceans of the world, especially the freezing waters of the polar regions. They are easily recognized by their black and white markings and their large dorsal fins. Males can reach 9 metres in length and weigh over 5,000 kilograms; females are slightly smaller, weighing between 1,500 to 3,500 kilograms, with an average length of 6-7 metres.
Orcas live in an aquatic habitat, and spend a large portion of their time travelling. In a day an orca may swim as far as 160 kilometres, reaching speeds of more than 50 km/hour. The home range of a group of orcas vary from over 1,000 square kilometres to over 100,000 square kilometres. Orcas spend the vast majority of their time underwater and typically dive 30-60 metres below the surface.
Orcas are highly social animals and they spend their entire lives in close-knit family groups called pods, which consist of 1-3 maternal groups.They learn, communicate, socialize and hunt with their family. Life in captivity is very difficult for orcas. In fact, the average length of survival in captivity is under six years, despite the fact that in the wild, female orcas may live as long as 80 years, and males as long as 50.
You Can Help Orcas…
- Say NO to whale shows. Don’t support amusement parks that display ocean animals like orcas and dolphins for entertainment.
- Speak up for orcas like Kiska, who lives alone in a narrow concrete pool at Marineland. Tell your class, teachers, family and friends why orcas don’t do well in captivity. Make posters or flyers to educate everyone at your school.
- Organize a fundraiser for a group, such as Zoocheck, that helps marine mammals.
- Print this postcard template on card stock paper, draw a picture on the front, write a message on the back and mail it to the Office of the Premier staying why Kiska should be freed from Marineland.
To know more about orcas in the wild and in captivity:
- Learn some fun facts about Orcas.
- Watch The Whale movie.
- Read the book Keiko’s Story: Killer Whale Goes Home by Linda Moore Kurth.
- Watch the National Geographic production Killer Whales: Wolves of the Sea to discover the unique behaviours of different communities of orcas, especially their complex and varied hunting techniques.
- Watch the educational documentary The Free Willy Story: Keiko’s Journey Home, about the real-life whale from the Free Willy films.
- Learn about the capture of whales by watching Lolita: Slave to Entertainment.