21 May 2024

Man behind orca 'body slam' hit with $600 penalty by Department of Conservation

4:54 pm on 21 May 2024

A 50-year-old Auckland man has been slapped with a $600 infringement after attempting to "body slam" an orca.

A video shared to Instagram in February, and reported to the Department of Conservation (DOC), showed a man jump from a boat into the sea off the coast of Devonport near two orca.

The man yelled, "I touched it", to other people on the boat, then asked "did you get it?", in apparent reference to the filming of his antics.

DOC principal investigation officer Hayden Loper said the man was identified with the help of the police.

Loper said he and another colleague then went to his home address to speak to him about the incident.

"He basically refused to speak to us," he said.

"He didn't provide an explanation, so yeah, we are unable to understand why he did it."

Loper said the video displayed a shocking and stupid attitude to protected marine mammals.

"The video left us genuinely stunned," he said.

"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."

Loper said it was "extremely irresponsible".

"This is stupid behaviour and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca.

"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.

"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 urged social media users to continue alerting DOC to content they believe breaches legislation protecting New Zealand wildlife.

He said anyone who sees an incident they believe may breach conservation legislation can call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

"This is the third case in recent years in which social media content has led to a successful prosecution for DOC and we greatly appreciate the tip-offs we get from the public," he said.

However, he said this was the first time that a person had jumped in the water on or near an orca, filmed it, and then posted it on social media.

"We often get tip-offs from members of the public about stuff posted on social media in relation to actions around marine mammals, but only a boat or a jet ski getting too close, or a drone flying too close, and other stuff like that."