Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A unique whale from Alaska

There have been two sightings off Alaska and the Aleutians, in 1993 and 2001, of what appeared to be a white orca, or killer whale. The animal had assumed a bit of a legendary aura, but now we know it's very real. Scientists have photographed the whale in question, and, though it's not an albino or solid white, its mix of white and light yellow-brown coloration marks it as a most unusual animal. I haven't found any references to any past specimens so colored, although there was a partial albino, kept in captivity from 1970-72, known as Chimo.
About this new oddity, Holly Fearnbach, a research biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, said, "I had heard about this whale, but we had never been able to find it. It was quite neat to find it."
COMMENT: There are no plans to capture this whale: indeed, such captures are no longer permitted in American waters. Keeping any whale in captivity has become controversial. However, my daughter, who is 11, just returned from her first visit to Sea World. Watching orcas only feet away from her instilled in her an awe and a sensitivity for the animals that videos never could.

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