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Stunning drone footage shows three killer whales hunt 9-foot great white shark and eat its liver

It’s a poignant scene of an orca cruelly ripping out the liver of a ten-foot great white shark, while two other orcas watch excitedly as the once-blue waters of Mossel Bay in South Africa turn a blood red before the shark sinks to a bottom of the sea – never to be seen again.

The wild story was captured by a drone camera hovering overhead and is now giving scientists a better understanding of why these apex predators seem to be fleeing these regions that were once the shark capital of the world.

Orcas have been known to feast on great white shark liver, as the orca is large and fat and has become the whale’s favorite dish – eight shark carcasses washed up in the Western Cape in 2017 and all of them were missing their liver.

The images are part of marine biologist Alison Towner’s long-standing work with great whites. She shared on her Instagram page that the clip is “one of the most incredible pieces of natural history ever captured on film.” ‘

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The wild story begins with viewers watching two killer whales splash and swim in the waters off South Africa

The wild story begins with viewers watching two killer whales splash and swim in the waters off South Africa

Great whites usually congregate in the waters around South Africa due to the large population of Cape fur seals which are the predator’s main food source.

However, what used to be 900 sharks has dwindled to no more than 522 and that’s because this predator has become the prey.

The drone footage, which shows an orca eating a great white for the first time, will air on Discovery’s Shark House Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET, a day before the highly anticipated Shark Week begins.

Shark Week is an annual week-long television program block that features nothing but shark-based content.

A great white shark appears from the depths and catches the attention of the two orcas - but the shark doesn't know what lurks below him

A great white shark appears from the depths and catches the attention of the two orcas – but the shark doesn’t know what lurks below him

A third killer whale appears, rips out the shark's liver and eats it.  The once blue water immediately turns red from the bleeding shark

A third killer whale appears, rips out the shark’s liver and eats it. The once blue water immediately turns red from the bleeding shark

You might think that great whites have the upper hand over orcas, but they are no match for the whales who are bigger, braver and more strategic.

News broke in 2019 that great whites had mysteriously disappeared from Cape Town, South Africa, and all evidence pointed to a migration of orcas in the region.

Between 2010 and 2016, shark spotters recorded an average of 205 great white sightings per year in an area of ​​600 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2018 there were only 50 and so far not a single one of the feared great white shark has been spotted this year.

When the orca has had enough, it releases the lifeless shark.  The carcass slowly disappears into the water

When the orca has had enough, it releases the lifeless shark. The carcass slowly disappears into the water

Since 2017, at least seven great white shark carcasses have washed up in False Bay, with telltale teeth marks indicating they were destroyed by killer whales.  Researchers say great whites encountering orcas will immediately leave their usual hunting grounds for up to a year

Since 2017, at least seven great white shark carcasses have washed up in False Bay, with telltale teeth marks indicating they were destroyed by killer whales. Researchers say great whites encountering orcas will immediately leave their usual hunting grounds for up to a year

Between 2010 and 2016, shark spotters recorded more than 200 great white sightings per year in False Bay, near Seal Island (pictured).  In a study published today, biologist Alison Towner reports earlier this month that she tracked 14 sharks that fled the coastal areas of Gansbaai when orcas are present.

Between 2010 and 2016, shark spotters recorded more than 200 great white sightings per year in False Bay, near Seal Island (pictured). In a study published today, biologist Alison Towner reports earlier this month that she tracked 14 sharks that fled the coastal areas of Gansbaai when orcas are present.

Pollution, climate change and overfishing of their natural prey have also been suggested as possible causes behind the mysterious disappearance.

WHY DO ORCAS HUNT GREAT WHITE SHARK?

Orcas are the Great White’s only natural predator.

Scientists have found evidence that they cut open the sharks and eat their fatty liver.

Scientists speculate that this behavior may be behind the disappearance of great whites from the waters of False Bay, off the coast of Cape Town.

Great whites frequented the area between June and October each year as part of their annual winter hunting season.

They were drawn to the region by the presence of the so-called Seal Island, a rock where a huge seal colony lives.

However, they themselves have fallen in prayer for orcas – and are on retreat.

Towner was also involved with researcher last month, who examined the large white carcasses from 2017 off the coast of Gansbaai.

Many of the shark carcasses washed ashore without their livers and hearts, or with other injuries typical of the killer whale.

“The research is particularly important because by determining how large marine predators respond to risk, we can understand the dynamics of coexistence with other predator communities,” Towner said.

“These dynamics may also dictate the interactions between competitors or intra-guild predator-prey relationship.”

Gansbaai was once a world-famous spot for spotting the legendary Great White, with tourists all over the world visiting and participating in cage diving.

The prevalence of killer whales may indicate that a decline in prey populations, including fish and sharks, is causing changes in their distribution pattern.

Other explanations for the decline of the area’s great whites include shark fishing, fishing-induced prey decline, or an increase in sea surface temperature.

While these may have a partial effect, they are unlikely to be the only ones contributing to such a sudden, local population decline from 2017.

Towner said: “The killer whales are targeting subadult great white sharks, which can further affect an already vulnerable shark population due to their slow growth rate and late maturing life history strategy.

“Increased vigilance using citizen science, for example, fishermen’s reports and tourist vessels, as well as continued tracking studies, will help gather more information about how these predations may affect the long-term ecological balance in these complex coastal seascapes.”

“We know great white sharks face their highest mortality in the anti-shark swim nets in KwaZulu Natal, they just can’t afford the extra pressure right now from killer whale, orca predation.”

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