UPDATE: Pod of Killer Whales Trapped in Ice Off Japan

UPDATE: Trapped orcas escape from drift ice near Japan

But on Wednesday, officials reported back saying their latest monitoring trip appeared to show the whales had moved away from the space.

“We believe they were able to escape safely,” a local official in the seaside town of Rausu said.

They speculated that the whales may have made their way out between gaps in the ice.

The footage of the pod – which included younger orcas – had appeared to show some bleeding at their jaws – a potential impact of their attempts to escape.



Drone footage shared Tuesday by a local wildlife organization, Wildlife Pro LLC, shows the whales struggling in a small gap between ice flows. The organization said it encountered the whales while doing marine research, according to a statement on Facebook.

“I saw about 13 killer whales with their heads sticking out of a hole in the ice,” a Wildlife Pro LLC employee, who filmed the video, told NHK. “They seemed to be struggling to breathe, and it looked like they included three or four calves.”

Sea ice hugs the coast of Hokkaido every winter, and is the lowest latitude sea ice in the world, but over recent years levels have been declining as global warming accelerates.

A lack of wind in the area has meant the ice trapping the orcas has remained stagnant. Officials from the coastal town of Rausu said they have no way to rescue the orcas, which were first spotted by a local fisherman, NHK reported. “We have no choice but to wait for the ice to break up and for them to escape that way,” a Rausu official told NHK.


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