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▶ Watch Video: Whale watchers overwhelmed by sighting of well-known white orca

New Zealand officials have fined a man hundreds of dollars for what they say was a display of “shocking and stupid attitude” after he was filmed jumping off a boat in an attempt to “body slam” an orca who was swimming near a calf.In a news release Tuesday, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation said that it was made aware of a video posted on Instagram in February that shows the 50-year-old man committing the act. The department said he was off the coast of Devonport, Auckland, when the video was taken, “in what appears to be a deliberate effort to touch or ‘body slam’ the orca.”

“At one point in the video the man yells ‘I touched it’ to the other people on the boat, before asking ‘did you get it?’, in apparent reference to the filming of his antics,” the department said. “Other people aboard the vessel laugh and cheer as they watch.”

This action, they added, “showed reckless disregard for his own safety – and that of the adult male orca with a calf swimming near the vessel.”

“The video left us genuinely stunned,” said Hayden Loper, the principal investigation officer at the 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,” said Loper. “This is stupid behaviour [sic] and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca. It is extremely irresponsible.”

Orcas, commonly known as killer whales, are the largest members of the dolphin family and are considered “nationally critical” in New Zealand, meaning they are “facing an immediate high risk of extinction.” No more than 200 of the animals are estimated to roam the country’s waters, with vessel traffic posing a major threat. Swimming with the marine mammals or disturbing them in any way, is illegal.

Given recent incidents off the coast of Spain in which orcas have sunk vessels, as well as the sheer massive size of the animals – they can become nearly 30 feet long – the DOC said this situation could have ended horribly for the man involved. “Any sudden moves” near the animals could risk the chance of harm, they said.

“Orca are immensely powerful animals, and this really could have ended horribly – with their the startled whale being injured, or the man responsible being harmed by the aggravated animal,” Loper said.

The Auckland man has since been hit with a $600 fine, as the department said he committed an act that “displays a shocking and stupid attitude to protected marine mammals.” The whales involved in the incident don’t appear to have suffered significant harm or disturbance, the department said on social media.

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