Story of Pod of Orcas Trapped in Ice Off the Coast of Japan Finally Comes to a Close

There was a lot of concern this last week over a pod of at least 10 orcas that were seen trapped by sea ice and struggling to breathe off the coast of northern Japan. Video footage had shown the beautiful whales congregated in a small break in the ice, vying for space to breathe.

Now we have some wonderful news, because according to a report from officials in the closest nearby town the orcas appear to be freed.

The BBC reports, "We believe they were able to escape safely," a local official in the seaside town of Rausu said. They speculated that the whales may have made their way out between gaps in the ice.

Drone footage had shown the whales packed together and struggling to breathe, with some younger orcas included in the pod. The news report also states that some of the whales had blood on their jaws, possibly from their attempts to escape the thick ice.


Related: National Geographic Photographer Captures the Greatest Gathering of Fin Whales Ever Recorded

This ordeal may have happened because lack of wind in the region means the ice may not divide to create enough space for the pod to swim through. Local officials had said they had no way of rescuing the pod safely. The Guardian reported, the town said the thick ice had made it impossible for the coast guard, which had been alerted by a fisher, to attempt to free the mammals. “We have no choice but to wait for the ice to break up and for them to escape that way,” a Rausu official told NHK.

Watching the video of these amazing creatures struggling in the ice was so hard to watch, and knowing they are now free is just the best news ever.

Facts About Orcas

Orcas, commonly known as 'killer whales' are apex predators, meaning they are at the top of the sea life food chain. They have no natural predators and are highly skilled hunters. They eat a variety of different prey, including fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, rays, whales, octopuses and squids. They are actually the largest members of the dolphin family, and male orcas are larger than female orcas, and can weigh over 12,000 pounds.

Orcas can travel in pods of up to 50 whales, and when the baby whales grow up they stay within the pod. You’ll sometimes find pods containing four generations. The eldest female orca is in charge, telling the group when and where to feed.

There are estimated to be about 50,000 orcas in the oceans, and orcas are threatened by chemical pollution, noise pollution (which can disrupt their feeding),  fishing lines, climate change and accidental stranding. Orcas are not currently under endangered status, but conservation efforts are underway to protect and preserve these beautiful marine mammals and their habitats.

If you would like to make a donation for orcas, you can do so at the World Wildlife Fund by visiting their website here.

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