But White Glaids, aka Gladis Blanca, is just one among many and she has a group of relatives — including two siblings and her two calves — that appear to be acting with her.
Meet White Gladis’ family
White Gladis is in a group with five other orcas and is among the most active in approaching and disabling boats, according to The Guardian. The five other killer whales with her are:
Gladis Lamari, the matriarch, hasn’t been seen interacting with the boats herself, only observing the rest of the group as they take part. She was born around 1992, according to the Iberian Orca Photo Identification Catalogue.
She gave birth to White Gladis in 2005, who is her oldest offspring, followed by Gladis Clara and Gladis Dalila.
White Gladis went on to give birth to Gladis Filabres in 2015 and Gladis Tarik in 2021. She gave birth to another calf in 2018, but it died within its first year.
Gladis Clara, White Gladis’ sibling, is a male orca, but the sex is unknown for Gladis Dalila and White Gladis’ two offspring.
Other Gladis groups in the Strait of Gibraltar
White Gladis and her group are part of a larger community of orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar.
The White Gladis pod is made up of six orcas. There are also nine Iberian Orcas that have had encounters with White Gladis.
Gladis Herbille is the mother of Black Gladis and Gladis Peque, who make up another pod.
There’s also a trio of juvenile orcas who are all related. Gladis Estrela is one of them, as are Gladis Isa and Gladis Mateo.
Gray Gladis and Gladis Albarracin have been seen among the other groups, but their own pods are unknown.
At some point you may have noticed all these killer whales are named “Gladis”. This is because the term “Gladis” — short for Orca gladiator — refers to orcas that interact with ships, Monica Gonzalez, a marine biologist with the Coordinator for the Study of Marine Mammals and coordinator of the “Friendship Orcas Project,” said during a webinar in June.
The orca uprising
In 2020, only nine orcas were involved in boat encounters, according to the Atlantic Orca Working Group (GTOA) who studies the interactions.
Over the next two years, others began to join in the activity, including a new addition, Gladis Olvera, in 2022, according to the GTOA.
In total, that makes 15 orcas who have been seen interacting with boats since 2020, per GTOA.
The increase in encounters over the last several years has been dubbed an “orca uprising. ” It’s thought to have begun with White Gladis in 2020 and the behavior may have spread to her offspring since mother orcas lead by example for their young. This supports the theory that these orcas might just all be copying each other.
There are a few other communities of Iberian orcas in the area who don’t go near boats.