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Killer Whales Are Attacking Great White Sharks And Ripping Out Their Livers

Killer Whales Are Attacking Great White Sharks And Ripping Out Their Livers

Killer whales are killing great white sharks and eating their livers, according to a new report from the South African government.

Scientists think this could be the reason the sharks have seen a steep decline in numbers over the past few years.

The carcasses of at least seven great white sharks have washed ashore in False Bay, near the coast of Cape Town, since 2017.

All the carcasses have teeth marks, which scientists say came from killer whales.

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Experts believe the whales are tearing into the sharks and ripping out their fatty, oily livers to tuck in to.

A shark carcass discovered earlier this year, believed to have been killed by orcas. Credit: Cari Roets/Marine Dynamics/Dyer Island Conservation Trust
A shark carcass discovered earlier this year, believed to have been killed by orcas. Credit: Cari Roets/Marine Dynamics/Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Great whites were once fairly common in the area and were a population attraction for tourists.

But since 2017 there's been a drop in the number of sightings, with experts claiming it could be due to numerous reasons including illegal hunting and climate change.

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Now, a team of experts hired by the government have concluded there may be a link between the drop in shark numbers and the appearance of a pod of killer whales.

South Africa's Minister of Environment Barbara Creecy commissioned a report into what was causing the drop off in shark numbers in the area, which stated the disappearance of the sharks was 'more likely a shift in distribution... as a result of recent orca occurrence and predation, rather than being related to the fishing activity.'

Credit: Anthea van Zyl/Dyer Island Conservation Trust
Credit: Anthea van Zyl/Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Speaking at a conference earlier this week, Creecy said the decline in great white sharks in the area had 'had a devastating impact on the shark-diving industry and caused immense disappointment to the hundreds of tourists who visit our shores to see this great predator.'

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Killer Whales Ripped Out And Ate The Livers Of Great White Sharks

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For context, between 2010 and 2016 there more than 200 great white sharks spotted per year in False Bay, according to conservation group Shark Spotters.

Fast-forward to 2018 and there were just 50 and by 2019, none at all.

In fact, the first sighting in 20 months was made in January this year and is the only one for the whole of 2020.

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Speaking about the killer whale attacks earlier this year, Marine biologist Alison Towner, who helped perform autopsies on the washed up carcasses, appeared on the Shark Talk YouTube where she revealed some grim details about the deaths.

She explained: "Just under the surface of the skin is the perfect place to open up the shark and access and extract the liver.

Credit: Anthea van Zyl/Dyer Island Conservation Trust
Credit: Anthea van Zyl/Dyer Island Conservation Trust

"I think two of the animals had both the heart removed and one male had his testes removed, because they're very close there in the body cavity.

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"We think the two killer whales were learning to get hold of the pectoral fins. We don't know for sure. It's like a ripping motion.

"The liver... it's oily, very slippery, it would naturally slide out so they could come along and share it."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Sharks, World News, Animals

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Claire Reid

Claire is a journalist at LADbible who, after dossing around for a few years, went to Liverpool John Moores University. She graduated with a degree in Journalism and a whole load of debt. When not writing words in exchange for money she is usually at home watching serial killer documentaries surrounded by cats. You can contact Claire at [email protected]