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New Zealand man fined for ‘stupid’ attempt to ‘body slam’ orca

The New Zealand authorities have condemned the “stupid behaviour” of a 50-year-old man who was filmed leaping off a boat in an attempt to “body slam” an orca.

The country’s Department of Conservation said on May 21 that the man from Auckland has been fined NZ$600 (S$495) for his antics, which displayed a “reckless disregard” for his own safety and that of the adult male orca with a calf.

In a video shared on Instagram in February, the man is shown leaping off a boat into the sea off the coast of Devonport, Auckland, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to “body slam” the male orca swimming close by, the department said.

Meanwhile, those onboard the boat can be heard whooping, cussing and laughing as they watch.

As the man swims back to the craft, he yells “I touched it” and “did you get it?” to the onlookers.

He then swims towards the male orca again in a second attempt to touch it, just as the orca calf surfaces behind him.

The department’s principal investigation officer Hayden Loper said the video left the authorities “genuinely stunned”.

The officer added: “This is stupid behaviour and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca. It is extremely irresponsible.”

“Orca are immensely powerful animals, and this really could have ended horribly – with either the startled whale being injured, or the man responsible being harmed by the aggravated animal.”

Earlier in May, orcas attacked and damaged at least three boats off the Iberian coast of Europe.

It is illegal to swim with whales, or disturb or harass any marine mammal in New Zealand.

During the weekend that the incident occurred, the department and the harbour master received calls from concerned members of the public about how close people were getting to the mammals.

Subsequently, the department was tipped off to the video.

Orca are apex predators, which means that they help prevent an overpopulation of prey in the ecosystem.

New Zealand’s population of orca is facing an immediate high risk of extinction, with between 150 and 200 individuals estimated to be living in the country’s coastal waters.

Disturbance by vessels, including recreational boats, has been identified as a threat to orca due to noise pollution and collisions with these craft.

The latest incident marks the third case in recent years that social media content has led to a successful prosecution for the department.

The department’s marine adviser told British news outlet The Guardian that the orca appeared to escape unscathed.

However, jumping into water on top of any dolphin or small whale can harm the creatures’ fins or startle the animal and cause it to collide with a propeller or keel.

Interacting with pods can disrupt their natural behaviour and can lead to the animals avoiding the area, she added.

Such disturbances can also be fatal for calves, which may wind up separating from the pod and dying as a result of starvation.

Orca ‘body slam’

‼️ Shocking footage. A man who leapt from a boat into the water near two orca has been slapped with a $600 infringement. The incident showed a shocking and stupid attitude to protected marine mammals. The video shared to Instagram in February, shows the man jump from a boat into the sea off the coast of Devonport – in what appears to be a deliberate effort to touch or “body slam” the orca. The man showed reckless disregard for his own safety – and that of the adult male orca with a calf swimming near the vessel. We were subsequently tipped off to this video by a member of the public. We would like to thank those who continue to alert us to potential breaches of New Zealand’s wildlife laws. Anyone who sees an incident they believe may breach conservation legislation can call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Read more:

Posted by Department of Conservation on Monday, May 20, 2024
WILDLIFENew Zealandmarine life