For over 12 years, WDCS supported the work of Miguel Iñíguez, Vanesa Tossenberger and Cecilia Gasparrou from Fundacion Cethus, studying orcas off Península Valdés in Patagonia, Argentina.
Miguel Iñíguez started his studies on the orcas of Punta Norte, Patagonia in 1985. During the austral (southern hemisphere) summer this area is chosen by the southern sea lions to for their breeding rookeries along the coast. While big males leave the area in mid-February, females remain there to look after their pups. As the pups start to make their first ventures into the water, so a unique group of orcas turns up along the coast.
These orcas have become famous all over the world because of the unusual technique they have developed to hunt. They spend a lot of time patrolling the shore looking for sea lion pups and then intentionally strand on the beach to catch them. Other known prey for the orcas includes Southern elephant seals, Magellanic penguins, cormorants and fishes. A core group of 17 orcas return to the area each year and have been assigned to three groups (PNA, B and C).
Thanks to the support of WDCS it was possible to study this species for almost 12 years between 1987 and 1999. Results from this project revealed that Pod PNB had been identified at eight different locations over a 1,000 km stretch of coastline. In addition, the team were able to lobby and advise decision makers that finally resulted in 1998 the National Law N° 25052 which forbid the hunting or capture of orcas in all Argentine waters.
WDCS continues to support Fundacion Cethus, studying other whales and dolphins found along the Argentine coastline.