Albino, or just blonde: White orca ignites discussion

  • 24/04/2012

By Samantha Hayes

First there was Migaloo, the pure white humpback whale discovered off the coast of Australia – and now there’s Iceberg, the first ever all-white adult male orca to be captured on film in the wild.

The Far East Russia Orca Project captured footage of Iceberg in 2010, which shows his 2 metre dorsal fin. They say their discovery is a world first.

However, New Zealand orca expert Ingrid Visser says the claim is way off, and there was “another [white orca] in 2000, and apparently there was a report of one in about 1993”.

The latest pictures were captured off the coast of Kamchatka in Russia, but Ms Visser says the white male spotted in 2000 could have easily travelled there from the Aleutians in Alaska.

She says when you compare photos of the two sightings, “it's possible even that it's the same animal, but we won't know really until we get some good photo IDs”.

White orca are extremely rare, and in the last 40 years only three have been seen in the wild. Scientists claim Iceberg is the only adult example – they estimate he is 16 years old, and could be albino.

Ms Visser says he's more likely to be blonde, like Australia’s white humpback Migaloo.

She says albinos have “absolutely no pigmentation, but these guys are actually leucistic or blonde”.

Iceberg lives in a family pod so hasn't been outcast for his differences, and being white won’t affect his chances of survival – his biggest threat is sunburn.

3 News

source: newshub archive