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BBC Set To Premiere 'The Woman Who Swims With Killer Whales', Detailing Dr. Ingrid Visser's Orca Research

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LONDON, England -- At seven meters long and weighing six tonnes, the Killer Whale is among the most feared creatures in the ocean one of the few fierce enough to battle and beat sizeable sharks.

Most would consider it madness to enter the water with them, but New Zealander, Ingrid Visser thinks differently. She is the only scientist in the world to swim with the species called Orca by some, and officially named Orcinus Orca (from the Latin for 'from the world of the dead').

Her maverick approach has revolutionized our understanding of these extraordinary creatures and uncovered a trend which threatens their existence. Swimming alone along New Zealand's 9,000 miles of spectacular coast, she's become an expert on a unique band of shark and ray-hunting Killer Whales.

Recently Ingrid has noticed a worrying trend. An already critically-endangered population of about 200 is no longer increasing and, worse, 2010 saw an unusual number of deaths. THE WOMAN WHO SWIMS WITH KILLER WHALES charts Ingrid's one-woman mission to find out what's going on her disturbing discoveries about the health of our oceans.

Breaking research unveiled in the film reveals that:

  • New Zealand's orca test positive to hundreds of different pollutants, including industrial chemicals like PCBs, the long-banned pesticide DDT and flame retardants a largely unregulated group of chemicals which have been shown to affect fertility in animals and humans.
  • The pollutant levels found in New Zealand's orca make them amongst the most polluted creatures in the southern hemisphere
  • The levels are likely to be exerting a negative effect on orca reproduction, immunity and growth.

The film also shows that the problems facing New Zealand's killer whales are mirrored around the world, including that in some marine places, levels of flame retardants are doubling every three to four years. Research suggests many of the pollutants found in the Orca are also in humans.

For more information on Dr. Visser's work, see the

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Reader Comments

1 person has commented so far. cloud add your comment

Ingrid is a brilliant scientist with the ability to understand how orcas perceive their world. Her work in New Zealand and the Antarctic is leading edge. (In addition to orca work, she is also one of the world's whale stranding experts and has pioneered ways to assist stranded or beached whales.) After watching our Newfoundland orcas "disassemble" other whales and dolphins, I wouldn't swim with them. In fact after a kill I have seen excited orca juveniles bump boats in the area....but I greatly admire Ingrid's knowledge, insights, and bravery. I expect she would swim fearlessly among our orcas too making her braver than me! She is also supportive of other whale scientists and she has been very helpful with our research in Newfoundland, Canada. This should be a great show for anyone who cares about whales!
   comment# 1   - David Snow · St. John's, Canada · Aug 24, 2011 @ 7:55am
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