Great White Sharks Face a New Enemy in South Africa

Animals

| LAST UPDATE 07/01/2022

By Stanley Wickens
great white shark killings
Gerard Soury via Getty Images

A string of murders has been taking place in the waters of the ocean near Cape Town, South Africa for the past few years. As a result, great white sharks are fleeing the area after a few individuals in the species were found dead. So, who's the culprit scaring away an apex predator like the great white?

Research has found that two killer whales, named Port and Starboard, have reportedly been responsible for the deaths of a few great white sharks since 2015. Not only are these orcas killing the sharks, but they also appear to be after these fish's internal organs. Scientists discovered that all eight bodies that have washed up on the shores near Cape Town since the killing spree began are missing their livers, and a few are missing hearts. After examining the wounds on the dead sharks, experts concluded that the sharks were all killed by the same orcas. They added that there's likely more where these carcasses are coming from, pointing out that there probably are carcasses that haven't washed up on shore.

orca shark predator research
wildestanimal via Getty Images
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Research shows that the orcas behind the attacks come from a species known to hunt at least three types of shark. However, the increase in attacks on great whites could be due to a lack of other prey. The study, which stretches over a period of five-and-a-half years, caught 14 sharks fleeing the area after the increase in attacks by the two orcas. Not only that, but experts are seeing a staggering drop in the population of sharks in the waters surrounding South Africa's coast.

Not only that, but the killings also appear to have affected the coast of Gansbaai, which is a world-renowned site for spotting great white sharks located about 100 km (62 miles) from Cape Town. "Initially, following an orca attack in Gansbaai, individual great white sharks did not appear for weeks or months," explained Alison Towner, the lead author of the paper and a shark biologist at the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. "The more the orcas frequent these sites, the longer the great white sharks stay away." So, what does the future look like for the populations of great white sharks that once swam so fearlessly in the waters off South Africa's coast? It looks like only time will tell...

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