Jackie Hildering – “Lessons learned from killer whales”
by Andrew Bryant, 2 Nov 2018.
With a mixture of history, science and irony, Jackie delivered a powerful talk indeed.
I was astounded to learn, for example, that the U.S. Navy sent pilots out to attack orcas with depth charges and gunfire in 1955, austensibly to aid the local Icelandic fishermen. Nor was I aware that both “transient” and “resident” descriptors are misnomers; the terms “inshore mammal-eating” and “inshore chinookaholics” more accurately reflect what these populations actually eat and how they behave. The “offshore” orcas with their ground-down teeth are a different matter – they eat sharks.
Much of Jackie’s talk was disheartening. Orcas are in big trouble, and as with so many other ecological problems, it’s not just one thing. Persistent chemicals, noise pollution, declining food resources, tourism, and other factors. In short, Orcinus orca is suffering a “perfect storm” of issues. So while there’s some good news – human attitudes have changed swiftly and dramatically over the course of only a few decades – the question remains:
Have they changed enough?