Man fined after trying to ‘body slam’ orca, officials say

Authorities in New Zealand have fined a man hundreds of dollars after he was caught on video jumping off a boat in what they said was “a deliberate effort to touch or ‘body slam’” an orca.

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The 50-year-old Auckland man, who was not identified by name, leapt from a pleasure boat into the sea off the coast of Devonport, Auckland, as an orca and his calf swam nearby, the country’s Department of Conservation said Tuesday in a news release. Video of the incident prompted people to contact authorities after it was posted to Instagram in February, officials said.

In the video, the man can be heard yelling, “I touched it!” after his jump appeared to jostle an orca. People on the boat could be heard cheering and clapping as they watched before the man tried a second time to get up close to the orca.

“The video left us genuinely stunned,” DOC Principal Investigation Officer Hayden Loper said Tuesday, calling the man’s behavior “stupid” and demonstrative of “a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca.”

In a post on social media, the DOC said the man was given a $600 fine because he had not previously had any run-ins with the agency and because the incident did not appear to cause significant harm to the orca or his calf. In New Zealand, anyone convicted of harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a marine mammal can face a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine of up to $250,000.

On Tuesday, Loper called the incident “extremely irresponsible.”

“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,” he said.

Orcas, who are also known has killer whales, have made headlines in recent years for sinking more than a half-dozen vessels in the Strait of Gibraltar off the coast of Spain.

Under New Zealand law, they are a protected species, meaning it is illegal to swim with, disturb or harass the animals. There are an estimated 150 to 200 orcas in the waters around the country.

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