Man is fined after trying to ‘body slam' killer whale

Officials in New Zealand who were tipped off to the social media video described the man’s behavior as “stupid” and “extremely irresponsible.”

New Zealand man has been fined over a social media video in which he tries to “body slam” an orca swimming next to his boat, in what officials called “stupid” and “extremely irresponsible” behavior.

In a video the Department of Conservation says was shared to Instagram in February, the 50-year-old Auckland man, whom authorities did not name, jumped off the boat into waters off the coast of the Auckland suburb of Devonport, where an adult male orca and calf were swimming nearby.

The man yells “I touched it” to the other people on the boat and then asks “Did you get that?” in an apparent reference to whether his encounter with the orca was successfully filmed. He then tries to touch the animal again. Other people aboard the vessel can be heard laughing and cheering in the background.

A member of the public had alerted the Department of Conservation to the video, which principal investigation officer Hayden Loper said left officials “genuinely stunned.”

“This is stupid behavior and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca. It is extremely irresponsible,” Loper said in a statement on Tuesday.

He added that orca, also known as killer whales, are protected in New Zealand and it is illegal to swim with them.

“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 department said the man had been fined 600 New Zealand dollars (about $365).

“If we continue to behave aggressively or inappropriately around animals, particularly animals like the big brain Orcas, they will probably learn to avoid us.” Mark Simmonds, Director of Science at OceanCare, told NBC News. “They might even learn to respond in ways that we won’t like.”

Orca, whose numbers in New Zealand are estimated to be between 150 and 200, are apex predators that can weigh 12,000 pounds or more. The animals, the largest members of the dolphin family, have made headlines in recent months over a series of boat-ramming incidents off the Iberian Peninsula, including last week.

Experts say the orca are most likely acting out of curiosity and playfulness rather than attacking the boats.

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