Scientists spot rare group of false killer whales off Kona

Researchers were treated to an amazing sight off the Kona coast of Hawaii Island: a rare group of false killer whales.

On Saturday, biologists spotted the group, known as “Cluster 2,” for the first time in nearly four years.

“When we discovered that it was Cluster 2, we were just overwhelmed really. It was an amazing experience or encounter, because we’ve been waiting so long to find this particularly rare cluster,” said Robin Baird, a research biologist with Cascadia Research Collective. “We’ve already discovered that one of the individuals photographed on Saturday was first documented in 1986, 29 years ago.”

Researchers tagged fins on three of them in order to track their movements around the islands. Each tag, attached remotely with titanium darts, will provide location updates 10 to 12 times per day over the next couple of months.

“(False killer whales) will take fish off fishermen’s lines and there’s evidence that they can be injured or killed as a result, so one of the main purposes of our work is to try to understand where they’re spending their time and how does that overlap with human activities,” Baird explained.

Don’t be fooled by the name, these “whales” actually belong to the dolphin family.

Scientists say false killer whales are the rarest among whales, dolphins and porpoises in Hawaii with an estimated 150 to 200 remaining in our waters.

Click through the gallery below for more photos from Cascadia Research Collective.

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