Man Fined for 'Shocking, Stupid' Behavior Around Orcas

'This really could have ended horribly'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2024 12:10 PM CDT

A New Zealand man is lucky his "stupid and shocking" behavior around two orcas didn't result in an immediate lesson in why they are also known as killer whales, authorities say. The 50-year-old was fined 600 New Zealand dollars (roughly $367) over a video posted on Instagram video that showed him jumping off a boat in an apparent attempt to body slam an adult male orca swimming near a calf, CBS News reports. He could be heard yelling, "I touched it" as people on the boat laughed.

"The video left us genuinely stunned," said investigation officer Hayden Loper at New Zealand's Department of Conservation. "As well as the initial attempt to dive onto the animal, the man stays in the water and then swims toward it again in a second attempt to touch it." He added: "This is stupid behavior and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca. It is extremely irresponsible. Orcas 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."

Authorities said the man was identified after a member of the public told the conservation department about the video. With a population of just 150 to 200 around New Zealand, orcas are considered "nationally critical," the Guardian reports. Hannah Hendriks, the department's marine technical adviser, said interacting with orca pods can disrupt "natural behaviors" including feeding and socializing. "In particular, disturbance of a pod with a calf presents a risk of separation of the calf from the rest of the pod—if the calf is still reliant on its mum for milk, this can end up with the calf starving, stranding, and ultimately dying," she said. (More orca stories.)

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