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Known to be one of the most highly cognitive species, orcas use "whistles" like the ones you hear above to stay in touch and recognize one another. Learned by calves from their mothers and elders, whistles are complex, tonal sounds containing the signature 'voice' of each individual and are thought to also facilitate social interactions.
They say we all grow up to be our parents... Across the world's oceans, orcas calves have been found to develop a signature 'whistle' bearing similar patterns to their parents. Through these findings, biologists can begin to trace lineages of families and have even discovered unique whistle 'dialects' that form amongst different pods. Now that's a real ocean orca-stra!
One of the most iconic species on our planet, the orca's survival as a species is under heavy threat. Noise pollution, overfishing, and other human activities are making it extremely difficult for orca to find enough prey to sustain their populations. For as long as humans have walked the Earth, millions of us have depended on the oceans for fishing, our economies linked to our underwater ecosystems. Paramount to the livelihood of both humans and all sea life is the success of apex predators such as the orca. Dubbed the 'umbrella' species of its habitat, its existence underpins the balance of ecosystems from the harbours of British Colombia to the isles of Scotland. Let's share the ocean. By promoting sustainable fisheries and restricting overuse of orca habitats, humans can benefit significantly from protecting orcas and their marine ecosystems.
Tracking animals through a forest is hard enough, but tracking them at sea is another kettle of fish. Ocean research suffers from a lack of data - while the majority of orca sub-populations around the world are reeling and declining steeply, the global population cannot be listed as endangered. This is deeply concerning for conservationists - we can't protect what we can't find. More funding is crucial for the future of our ocean's top predators, along with stricter legislations with regard to sustainable fishing practices.
Much remains unknown about the remaining orca sub-populations in the wild. Whilst numerous groups have been depleted in numbers due to hunting and capture in the past, such activities are now restricted on an almost global scale, paving the way for a comeback for the species. The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act began an important political shift toward valuing healthy marine coastal habitats in North America - governments around the globe continue to face increasing pressure to expand legislation and protect their coastlines. Much of the future success of orcas depends on our ability to transform our fishing industries to become more sustainable. Sometimes known in Inuit folklore as 'the wolves of the sea', orcas are apex predators who depend on the health of everything else below them on the marine food chain, from the reef dwelling fish to the kelp forests and the sea otters that live amongst them. Today, there still remains an uphill challenge in collecting enough data to sustain orca conservation initiatives. Their wide-spanning, nomadic movements make international collaboration a must, while more funding for monitoring and research would allow us foresee threats to them and their habitats. There are enough people that care to turn it around for the orca - our message at SoundBites is to bring the voices of threatened wildlife to your doorstep, showing the beauty of their sound whilst carrying the importance of the message. If you are interested learning more about what you can do to support orca conservation efforts, click through to this page here.
Keep on listening!
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