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Orca memes swarm social media after reports of boat attacks

Welcome to the "orca wars" era of social media.
Orca whale jumping out of the sea in Vancouver Island, Canada.
Are you team Orca?Wirestock / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Where were you when the "orca wars" began?

That's the question posed by many on social media after incidents of orcas seemingly attacking and sinking boats were reported off the southwestern tip of Europe in May. Since 2020, interactions between orcas and humans has increased, and despite the alleged attacks on vessels, no human injuries or deaths have been reported.

Though the "orca wars" reference a fictional battle between human and killer whale, many have taken their allegiances seriously, posting about being team orca or team human.

“I’m joining the human versus orca wars on the side of the orcas. They’re the buff bodyguards of the oceans,” one person tweeted.

“if you an orca whale reading this, i am on your side. i have always been on your side. i fear the sea and i have never been to marineland. i believe in you,” another user wrote.

The "orca war" memes, which first popped up in May, reached a new pinnacle in mid-June, according to meme database Know Your Meme.

Initially, some reports characterized the behavior as acts of revenge by an orca named "White Gladis," who was wounded and traumatized by a ship. However, experts say the orcas are actually engaging in “fad” behavior, which describes novel but temporary conduct from one whale that can be mimicked by others.

Still, on social media people leaned into the notions that the orcas appeared to be out for revenge. That's how the "orca wars" began trending on Twitter.

"the orcas waited for us to be distracted with overblown fears of AI. begun the great orca wars have," one person wrote.

Some Twitter users, including actor George Takei, joked the animals are "beginning to orcanize."

While some suggested the "revolution continues," other suggested that humans "give them guns."

Others are photoshopping orcas into existing memes.

In one example, a person photoshopped a killer whale head onto a meme of former football player Anthony Adams wearing a yellow jacket and rubbing his hands together while peering out from behind a tree. That image was posted in response to a news story about a boating competition.

Even Merriam-Webster joined in on the "orca wars." On Wednesday, the dictionary company's social media account shared the definition of the word “saboteur” written over an image of a killer while.