California Zoos, Aquariums and Wildlife

San Diego Zoo entrance, photo by Kevin ConnorsSan Diego Zoo Entrance

San Diego Zoo flamingoes, photo by Prasit ImtanavanichSan Diego Zoo flamingoes

San Diego Zoo Orangutan, photo by Allen ConantSan Diego Zoo Orangutan

The Shamu Adventure, San Diego, photo by Allen ConantThe Shamus Adventure, Sea World in San Diego

Watching Shamu, Seaworld in San Diego, photo by Allen ConantWatching Shamu, Sea world in San Diego

San Diego Zoo PandaSan Diego Zoo Panda

San Diego Zoo Koala, photo by JF EliasSan Diego Zoo Koala

Bakersfield CA Zoo

Fresno CA Zoo

Long Beach CA Zoo

Los Angeles CA Zoo

Monterey CA Zoo

Palm Deserts CA Zoo

Sacramento CA Zoo

San Diego CA Zoo

San Francisco CA Zoo

Santa Ana CA Zoo

Santa Barbara CA Zoo

Santa Rosa CA Zoo

When is a "Killer Whale" not a whale?

Always! A Killer Whale (Scientific name: Orcinus orca) is not a whale at all. It is the largest member of the dolphin family. They are called killer whales because they kill whales, hunting them in packs like wolves.

Although they are found in every ocean from the North Pole to the South Pole, orcas are most common in the Arctic and Antarctic and are often spotted off the west coast of the United States and Canada.

The killer whale is easy to identify by its striking coloration: jet-black on top with a white patch behind each eye and a white belly.

Orcas are very social animals that travel in groups of 5 to 30 orcas, called pods. They have established social hierarchies which are lead by females. They also have a complex form of communication with dialects that vary from one pod to another.

Like other dolphins, orcas use echolocation (sonar)—bouncing sound off of objects to determine their location—to hunt, and use a series of high-pitched clicks to stun prey. Fish, squids, seals, sea lions, walruses, birds, sea turtles, otters, penguins, whales, polar bears, reptiles, and even a moose have all been found in the stomach contents of orcas.

Orca will intentionally beach themselves to scare seals or penguins into the water where other killer whales are waiting to feed.

Size: Although small compared to some whales, killer whales are the largest predators of mammals ever known.

  • Male killer whales, or bulls, average 19-22 ft. (5.8 to 6.7 m) and weigh between 8,000-12,000 lb. (3,628 and 5,442 kg).
  • Females, or cows, average 16-19 ft. (4.9 to 5.8 m) and weigh between 3,000-8,000 lb. (1,361 and 3,628 kg).

Life Span: Male orcas have a life expectancy of 50-60 years. Females have a life expectancy of up to 90 years.

Orcas are not in threat of extinction. Their only enemies are human beings.

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