Two killer whales have been spotted off the Cornish coast in a rare sighting of the UK’s only resident Orca population.
Experts believe this is the first record of the pod of Orcas – the largest member of the dolphin family – travelling this far south.
The group is made up of four males and four females and normally resides in the Hebrides in Scotland.
They were spotted on Wednesday by members of Cornwall Wildlife Trust off the west coast, near the Minack Theatre.
The pair, named John Coe and Aquarius, were identified by the shape and notches of their dorsal fins and patches of colouration near their eyes and on their backs.
Although they are regularly monitored, some have not been seen in recent years and there have been no calves observed since monitoring began in the 1990s.
According to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, the pod faces the risk of extinction as a direct result of human activities.
This includes exposure to high levels of now-banned PCB chemicals which have caused poor health and infertility within the pod.
Orcas spotted in Cornwall! 😮🐳 Two male orcas named 'John Coe' and 'Aquarius' were seen off of the #MinackTheatre in West Cornwall yesterday afternoon. This may possibly be the first record of the UK’s only resident population of Orcas travelling this far south! 📷 Will McEnery pic.twitter.com/KRwAWEcH1N
— Cornwall Wildlife Trust 〓〓 (@CwallWildlife) May 6, 2021
Abby Crosby, marine conservation officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “Photographs validated the record and identified these rare and beautiful individuals as John Coe and Aquarius.
“This is the first official orca record in our databases with associated photos in over a decade, and further proof of the value of our coastal seas in supporting these magnificent creatures.”
The two killer whales form part of the West Coast Community, a specialised pod of eight individuals that can be distinguished from other groups of orcas by their unusual sloping eye patch and larger size.
Crosby added: “This pod, and the issues it faces with infertility and future extinction, should be a huge wake-up call to the public that we must protect these creatures better in our waters.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.