A group of fisherman captured remarkable footage of a pair of orcas surrounding a dugong off the coast of Abu Dhabi.
The marine creatures - also known as killer whales - were spotted by five anglers out on a fishing trip at about 1.30pm on Tuesday.
The public has been warned against swimming in the sea for the next two days due to the presence of the orcas.
Ahmed Afify was one of the men who witnessed the mammals making a splash.
He told The National that the group noticed something was wrong when there was a lack of fish around their boat.
“We felt there was something wrong,” he said. “After a few moments, we noticed a big fish near the boat.”
When Mr Afify and the rest of the group realised they had encountered two orcas, they pulled out their phones and recorded the rare moment.
“It's impossible to spot such a whale off the coast of the UAE,” he added.
He said the orcas were swimming and surrounding a dugong — also known as sea cows — that was trying to escape their attention.
“The whales were taking the sea cow under the water and then throwing it to the surface,” he said. “It was strange behaviour.”
The group returned to land, where they contacted the authorities.
The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi and other environmentalists saw Mr Afify's video on social media and contacted him for the location of the orca.
“They told me one of the whales is an adult male orca,” he said.
The group of fishermen are part of an angling group called Just Fishing. Mr Afify said that the group's aim is to highlight Abu Dhabi as a fishing destination for international anglers seeking sports fishing from around the world.
“We had a European man who was thrilled to witness such a rare animal,” he said.
Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family and one of the world's most powerful predators.
They are mostly found in the north-east Atlantic around the Norwegian coast, as well as the North Pacific and the coast of Antarctica. However, they are found in most oceans around the world and have adapted to cooler climates as well as the warmer waters of the Middle East.
“Despite their mobile nature, sightings of these mammals in the UAE still remain rare,” Kelly Timmins, a marine animals expert at Atlantis Resorts in Dubai, told The National.
“There have been sightings of killer whales in the UAE dating back to 2008, typically during the cooler months of December through to April.”
Ms Timmins said sighting such animals was important in gathering scientific baseline information about marine mammal populations in UAE waters.
Atlantis Dubai does this regularly as part of a collaborative partnership called Dubai Dolphin Survey, which brings together expertise from Zayed University, the UAE Dolphin Project Initiative and F3 Marine. The initiative was launched in 2021.
However, Ms Timmins stressed that people should be respectful of killer whales when spotting them during fishing trips. “It's interesting and exciting to see a rare sighting like this, and we would always encourage people to be respectful of these powerful, wild, and therefore unpredictable animals,” she said.
“As with all wild encounters, keep a respectful distance of more than 50 metres and observe only, allowing them to continue doing what they are doing.”
The largest killer whale recorded weighed 10 tonnes and was almost 10 metres long.
In January 2022, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed shared a clip of an orca swimming around Dubai Marina
The sighting helped environmentalists track a pod of killer whales, about 24 kilometres from the emirate’s shore.