Photos: Extremely rare white Orca spotted in Bering Sea near Russia

Credit: Russian Orcas/Cover Images

An extremely rare white orca - thought missing for eight years - has been sighted.

The killer whale was spotted on 7 June by the Russian Orcas research group near the Commander Islands in the Bering Sea.

Olga Filatova of Russian Orcas explains: "This white orca female is a resident of the waters of the Commander Islands, an archipelago about 200 km east of Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East.

On the first day of our fieldwork in the Commander Islands, we encountered a large aggregation of several groups, including one with a white individual. The female CO210 also known as “Mama Tanya” (named after the main photoID researcher of our project Tatiana Ivkovich, who is also blond).

"We have been studying orcas and other whales in this area since 2008. We encountered this white female for the first time in 2009. A year later, she appeared again and we saw her several times during the summer 2010. Then she disappeared for eight years, and we were worried about her, but finally she came back this summer. We are happy to greet her again!

"She is very shy and difficult to approach, so we can take close photos only when she is in tight group with her family members, which makes her a bit more relaxed.

"She is at least 20 years old now, because she was full-size grown up orca back in 2009, which means she was at least 11-12 years old.

"We do not know whether she is a true albino or leucistic. Only one confirmed true albino orca (named Chimo) is known to date, and it suffered from serious genetic condition associated with albinism and died from it.

"Fortunately our white orca looks healthy and does not seem to have problems with her coloration.

"There are other white orcas in the North Pacific, one of them is the famous white male called Iceberg who was also seen in the Commander Islands."

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