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Killer whale research comes to Shetland

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Hans J Marter

21 May 2008

Shetland has been described as a hotspot for killer whales - Photo: Craig SimA RESEARCH team from two Scottish universities is due in Shetland tomorrow (Thursday) to embark on a ten week field trip into the social life of local killer whale populations.

During their time in the isles Dr Andy Foote from Aberdeen University and Dr Volker Deecke from St Andrews University will try to get to know as many local killer whales as possible.

Their visit is part of a long term study, which started in 2006, into the population structure of killer whales around Scotland’s coast.

Dr Foote described Shetland as “the real hotspot” for watching killer whales which made it worthwhile to spend the summer in the isles hoping to get as many encounters as possible.

They are asking local people to help them by phoning their mobile on 07500 380 524 with sightings of the mammals.

Dr Foote said: “We are going to move around to wherever the last sighting has been, and will also be scanning the seas from cliffs and other high areas. Once we see whales we will be launching our inflatable and get out there.”

They will start their field trip in the isles with two talks this Friday and Saturday before basing themselves on the island of Yell in response to previous sightings in Bluemull Sound.

He said: “We are trying to get photo identification of different animals, as the white patch behind the dorsal fin is like a finger print unique to every individual. That way we can track individuals across areas and also get an idea of abundance.

This group of killer whales were photographed at Lodingen in northern Norway in winter 2005 - Photo: Courtesy of Andy Foote“We already got some preliminary results from photos handed in by the public. It looks as though there are more killer whales around our coast than what people think.

“They might be staying around Shetland for most of the time and are only moving offshore a little bit in the winter.”

Last October the researchers witnessed groups with more than 50 killer whales feeding near the local pelagic trawler Adenia, just 10 miles off Shetland.

Their talks of the preliminary results of the study will be held at the Shetland Amenity Trust, in Lerwick, on Friday at 7pm, and at the Winddog Café, in Yell, on Saturday at 6pm. Anyone interested is welcome to come along.

Most recent update - Saturday, 31 May 2008 08:10
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