‘Shocking and stupid’: Man fined for trying to ‘body slam’ orca

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‘Stupid’: New Zealand man fined for trying to ‘body slam’ orca
WATCH: A 50-year-old New Zealand man who was filmed in February trying to “body slam” an orca from a boat was fined and excoriated by officials, who called him “stupid” for the dangerous stunt – May 23, 2024

A 50-year-old New Zealand man who was filmed trying to “body slam” an orca was fined and excoriated by officials, who called him “stupid” and “irresponsible” for the dangerous stunt.

The man was not identified by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, but officials announced he was fined NZ$600, which converts to C$500.

The video shows a man leaping off the edge of a boat towards an adult male orca and a calf swimming near the vessel “in what appears to be a deliberate effort to touch or ‘body slam’ the orca,” the Department of Conservation writes. On board the boat, the man’s companions cheer him on.

At one point in the video, the man yells, “I touched it!”

“Oh my God, it’s behind him!” one of the people on the boat shrieks while laughing.

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The man briefly swims back towards the boat and holds onto the side before swimming back out towards the orcas for a second time.

Orcas are a protected species in New Zealand, as they are in Canada under the Species at Risk Act.

The Department of Conservation shared the video on Facebook and chewed the man out for his “shocking and stupid attitude to protected marine mammals” and his “reckless disregard for his own safety” and the safety of the orcas.

The footage was filmed in February off the coast of Auckland and uploaded to Instagram, officials write, noting they were tipped off to the video by a member of the public.

Hayden Loper, the conservation agency’s principal investigator, said the video left him and his colleagues “genuinely stunned.”

“This is stupid behaviour and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca. It is extremely irresponsible,” Loper said. “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.”

The stunt was not only dangerous, but illegal too.

“It’s a very clear breach of the Marine Mammals Protection Act. Orca are classified as whales under conservation legislation and it is illegal to swim with whales, or disturb or harass any marine mammal,” Loper explained.

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This isn’t the first time New Zealand wildlife authorities have learned of bad behaviour on social media, and Loper encourages members of the public to continue alerting the agency to potential breaches of wildlife protections.

“This is the third case in recent years in which social media content has led to a successful prosecution for [the Department of Conservation] and we greatly appreciate the tip-offs we get from the public,” Loper said.

Orcas have been increasingly in the news in the past few years as Iberian orcas have been blamed for ramming and sinking boats off the coast of Spain and Portugal.

Marine science staff in New Zealand say it’s more important than ever to respect orcas and give them space given the increasing number of orca-related sinkings.

“Any sudden moves near orca significantly risk the chance of people being harmed,” officials write.

It’s estimated that there are around 150 to 200 orcas in the waters off New Zealand.

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