Featured Image Credit: Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari
A special treat for whale watchers: an orca who lost half of her dorsal fin in a mystery accident has been sighted in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.
Pickle, who is one of the fewer than 200 orcas now remaining in New Zealand waters, surfaced next to a sea safari on Friday. No one knows how Pickle ended up with a jagged fin, but a scientist who’s studied her since calf-hood said she hadn’t let it slow her down. “Pickle is incredibly bold … she appears to have a little bit of an attitude,” Orca Research Trust founder Ingrid Visser said. “If you were to put it in human terms, you might say she runs around thinking ‘Well, I survived losing my dorsal fin, I’m pretty bullet-proof.”
Pickle is 8 years old and was given her unique name by a group of school children who said she was “cute as a little pickle.” Her maturity is far beyond her year, although still loveable, she is rambunctious and enjoys hunting. “When she was only 1-year-old, she was already successfully catching eagle rays and stingrays. You don’t normally see that until they’re 2 or 3 years old,” Visser said.
It will remain a mystery why she lost part of her fin, but one thing is for sure – it was a painful injury. “If you suddenly remove part of the body, they’re no longer hydrodynamically perfect so they have to compensate for that,” Visser said. “It’s painful when it happens.”
Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari’s marine research officer, Catherine Lea, said the loss of a dorsal fin could be the result of human interference from boats or fishing lines. But due to the sighting being rare, it is hard to know for sure. “These guys [orca] spend a lot of time at sea but we only get a little snapshot into their lives.”