Animal welfare organizations are urgently appealing to the Japanese government to rescue a pod of at least thirteen orcas. The animals are trapped in floating ice off the coast of Hokkaido, northern Japan.
Japanese broadcaster NHK shared drone footage on Tuesday where around thirteen orcas, including several calves, can be seen struggling to keep their noses above water. The animals are stuck in the strait between Hokkaido and Kunashir Island, near the city of Rausu.
Rausu is situated on the Shiretoko Peninsula, a site recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Local fishermen first spotted the animals on Tuesday morning. They immediately alerted the authorities.
The orcas can be saved by vessels capable of creating a passage through the ice, leading the animals to open water. According to the animal welfare organization Dolphin Project, Russia has offered Japan to send an icebreaker to the area to rescue the orcas, but Japan hasn’t responded.
Since the whales are located in the territorial waters of Japan, the Russian government can only intervene upon request, Dolphin Project said, pleading to the public to “help us ask authorities in Japan to let Russia send icebreakers to help these orcas.”
Can orcas breathe underwater?
Orcas, like all marine mammals, cannot breathe underwater. They are air-breathing animals that need to come to the surface to breathe.
Orcas breathe through a blowhole located on top of their head. They can hold their breath for long periods -on average between 5 to 15 minutes- while diving.
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