Whale watchers off the coast of Japan were in awe when they spotted two extremely rare white orcas swimming together as part of the same pod.
While on a whale-watching excursion, the orcas were seen in between the Japanese islands of Hokkaido and Kunashir.
One of the two orcas, according to Mai, a worker with the Gojiraiwa-Kanko tour company, was older and had significantly darker skin, while the other was younger and had obvious scratch marks running down its back.
She claimed that the younger whale had only recently been discovered and that the elder whale had been seen for the first time about two years prior.
‘It was the best day ever. This is the first time two white orcas have been seen off the coast of Japan,’ she said.
Here’s a video of the once-in-a-lifetime encounter:
The orcas have been identified as having leucism rather than albinism. This is because they weren’t entirely without pigmentation.
That explains why the eyes themselves are still dark and why the two orcas that were seen close to Japan still had the white patches that typically surround an orca’s chin and eyes.
It might provide some light on the scarring that runs down the side of the younger animal as the scar tissue appears to have healed in a darker tone.
White orcas and whales were originally so uncommon that they were supposed to be myths, but they are now more prevalent than ever before, with at least five individuals still alive, according to scientists.
A species’ genetic variety decreases as its population grows smaller because the remaining animals have fewer mates to choose from, which is seen as a sign that the species is in trouble.
This includes uncommon genetic conditions that hinder an animal’s ability to live in the wild, therefore posing a threat to speed up the extinction of the species.
Although it is unknown exactly how the leucism affects the orcas who inherit it, it can make them more noticeable, impairing their abilities to hunt and draw unwanted attention from competitors.