Man Fined After Trying To ‘Body Slam’ Orca

Footage of the incident was shared to social media

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2 Minutes Read

An orca off the coast of New Zealand It's illegal to disturb or harass orcas in New Zealand - Media Credit:

A man has received a NZ$600 fine for trying to “body slam” an orca in New Zealand. Conservation officials have branded the act “shocking and stupid.”

The 50 year old man was filmed jumping from a boat off the coast of Davenport, Auckland, to land on the orca. The animal is thought to be an adult male who had a calf with him. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DoC) posted the footage to its Instagram account this week. The incident took place in February. The video shows the man jumping towards the orca and swimming after him as people on the boat cheer him on.

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“This is stupid behaviour and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca,” DoC Principal Investigation Officer Hayden Loper said in a statement. It’s illegal to harass, disturb, injure, or kill marine mammals under New Zealand’s Marine Mammals Protection Act, which covers orcas. 

The DoC investigated the incident after a tip-off about the video from concerned people who had seen it on social media.

“Could have ended horribly”

Loper noted that orcas are “immensely powerful” and that the man’s actions could have had a much worse outcome. It could have resulted in injury to the “startled whale” or to the man who jumped on him.

Disturbing a pod of orcas with a calf could result in tragedy for the calf, too. It “presents a risk of separation of the calf from the rest of the pod,” Hannah Hendriks from the DoC told the Guardian. “[I]f the calf is still reliant on its mum for milk, this can end up with the calf starving, stranding, and ultimately dying.”

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Social media users expressed outrage about the man’s behavior and that of people cheering him on and laughing. Many expressed shock that the punishment for harassing the orca was such a small fine. The maximum penalty for breaching the Marine Mammal Protection Act is two years in prison or a $250,000 fine.

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