White Gladis, the orca believed to be behind the recent boat encounters in and near the Strait of Gibraltar, is not acting alone. New information reveals that White Gladis is part of a larger family group consisting of six orcas. Experts speculate that the other orcas in the group may be imitating White Gladis’ behavior, leading to the increase in boat encounters.
The family of White Gladis, also known as Gladis Blanca, includes two siblings and her two calves. This group of orcas has been observed approaching and disabling boats, causing damage and even sinking some vessels. White Gladis is considered the most active in these encounters, according to The Guardian.
The other members of White Gladis’ pod are Gladis Clara and Gladis Dalila, her siblings, and Gladis Filabres and Gladis Tarik, her calves. The matriarch of the family group is Gladis Lamari, White Gladis’ mother. Gladis Lamari has not been directly involved in the boat encounters but has been observed observing the actions of the rest of the group. She was born around 1992, according to the Iberian Orca Photo Identification Catalogue.
White Gladis, born in 2005, gave birth to Gladis Filabres in 2015 and Gladis Tarik in 2021. However, she also experienced the loss of one calf in 2018, which died within its first year. The sex of Gladis Dalila and White Gladis’ other offspring remains unknown.
The family of White Gladis is part of a larger community of orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar. In addition to the six members of White Gladis’ pod, there are nine other Iberian orcas that have been involved in boat encounters in the area. These orcas are organized into four separate groups, each with its own unique dynamics.
Gladis Herbille is the mother of Black Gladis and Gladis Peque, who form another pod. There is also a trio of juvenile orcas, all related, named Gladis Estrela, Gladis Isa, and Gladis Matteo. Gray Gladis and Gladis Albarracín have been observed among the other groups, but their own pods remain unknown.
Interestingly, all of these killer whales share the name “Gladis.” Marine biologist Mónica González explains that “Gladis” is short for Orca gladiator, a term used to describe orcas that interact with ships. This behavior has led to the nickname given to this specific community of orcas.
The increase in boat encounters involving these orcas has been referred to as an “orca uprising.” In 2020, only nine orcas were involved in these encounters, but since then, the number has risen to a total of 15 orcas. The initial behavior likely started with White Gladis in 2020 and may have been passed on to her offspring, as mother orcas often lead by example for their young. This suggests that the other orcas may be imitating each other, resulting in the spread of this behavior within the community.
It is important to note that not all Iberian orcas in the area engage in boat encounters. There are other communities of orcas that do not exhibit this behavior. Understanding the reasons behind the boat encounters and finding ways to mitigate them is crucial for ensuring the safety of both the orcas and humans in the area.