www.bbc.co.uk 23rd April 2012
A group of Russian scientists on a research expedition off the coast of Kamchatka have spotted a white killer whale, or orca, for the first time in the wild. The adult has a dorsal fin of over two metres, indicating he is a mature male of over 16, and seems to be living a normal life with his pod. Other white orcas have been known but they have all been juveniles. The expedition was led by a senior research fellow with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society , Erich Hoyt, who nicknamed the orca ‘Iceberg’. The researchers are reluctant to take a biopsy of Iceberg to find out the cause of the pigmentation, particularly as he seems to be fully socialised. “We know that these fish-eating orcas stay with their mothers for life, and as far as we can see he’s right behind his mother with presumably his brothers next to him,” said Dr Hoyt. Another white orca, a young captive called Chima that died in a Canadian aquarium in 1972, suffered from Chediak-Higashi syndrome, a genetic condition that causes partial albinism as well as a number of medical complications.