Great White named Helen filmed, for 1st time ever, strategically killing a whale
In recent months, we’ve seen reports of orcas moving into False Bay to, possibly, target Great White sharks.
Sharks are, usually, apex predators.
Some feed on animals as large as whales, but this has never been captured on video – until now.
Mossel Bay-based National Geographic shark expert Ryan Johnson recently shot astounding footage of a shark slowly and deliberately attacking a humpback whale many times her size.
The resulting documentary forms part of National Geographic’s “Shark Fest”, currently on in South Africa and some other parts of the world.
Johnson – a New Zealander - moved to South Africa in 1999 to observe sharks and to study marine biology.
“It was a dream for kids in New Zealand to be able to go to Africa and study the wildlife and animals,” says Johnson.
“South Africa has been everything to me.
“You can have adventures here with animals that you can’t have anywhere else in the world.
“A lot of countries don’t make space for their big, charismatic predators, but South Africa’s government has been protecting species like great whites for the best part of 30 years now.”
Refilwe Moloto interviewed Johnson about what he witnessed and filmed, and the significance thereof.
It [great whites completely disappearing after orca attacks] first came to light in 1992 in California… A group of orcas killed one Great White shark, massively impacting on the entire population that dispersed and disappeared. They didn’t see another Great White for a year! That’s what seems to have happened in South Africa for the past three years…Ryan Johnson, marine biologist
It’s had a huge impact on the cage diving industry… but I don’t think it’s had a huge impact on the overall population of Great Whites. They just dispersed to be a bit safer from the orcas.Ryan Johnson, marine biologist
Great White sharks love eating whales – they scavenge off the carcasses…Ryan Johnson, marine biologist
… the whale was still very much alive. Five minutes later, a big Great White shark I tagged four years earlier – her name is Helen – turned up. Over the course of 50 minutes, I watched an intelligent, curious predator flipping the book and attacking a humpback whale. She went about it strategically… she latched onto its head, pulled it under the water, and drowned it!Ryan Johnson, marine biologist
Helen was named after Helen Suzman…Ryan Johnson, marine biologist
There were no other sharks. It was her alone. She was about four metres, but the whale was about nine metres and weighed 10 times more than her…Ryan Johnson, marine biologist
She targeted the tail, the skinny part because that’s where she could get her mouth all the way around. She started biting on that and opened a blood vein. The whale started bleeding, and then she backed off… When it became weak it latched on to its head… and overcame it by drowning it… It was tragic but special to watch.Ryan Johnson, marine biologist
This has never been seen before! A Great White shark hunting a massive whale! … [Yet] She looked experienced; like she’s done it before…Ryan Johnson, marine biologist
Listen to the interview in the audio below.
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