Nosy or­cas put on a show

Waitem­ata¯ Har­bour en­counter thrills boat’s tour group

Whanganui Chronicle - - Nation -

Apod of five or­cas treated sight­seers to a “very spe­cial” en­counter on the Hau­raki Gulf. The pod of two calves, two fe­males and a male spent about 20 min­utes around the tour group with Auck­land Whale and Dol­phin Sa­fari.

Ma­rine re­search and con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer Cather­ine Lea said while she was not on board at the time she heard it was a “very spe­cial” en­counter for all of those on board.

“They are an en­dan­gered species and we don’t see them all of the time, so even the crew were really stoked to get to see them.

“Ev­ery­body loves orca and see­ing them is on many bucket lists, so I can guar­an­tee pretty much ev­ery­body would have loved it.”

The pod spent the ma­jor­ity of their time for­ag­ing, but came over to check out the pas­sen­gers and boat with the calves feel­ing a lit­tle play­ful and breach­ing and “spy-hop­ping out of the wa­ter”.

“Just like hu­mans they have per­son­al­i­ties and moods, like all whales and dol­phins, with some more in­quis­i­tive than oth­ers, es­pe­cially the younger ones.

“Of­ten when we see them they will just be for­ag­ing, some­times they will be more friendly and come and check out the boat. It is pretty rare to see them up and out of the wa­ter like that, though.”

Lea said they saw or­cas on about 10 per cent of their trips, or about 30 times a year.

“The north­east coast of New Zealand has the most sight­ings in the coun­try.

“They are not sea­sonal and we see them through­out the year.”

Ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, New Zealand is home to an es­ti­mated 150 to 200 or­cas, which travel long dis­tances through­out the coun­try’s coastal wa­ters.

They pre­fer deeper wa­ter, but can be found in shal­low bays es­tu­ar­ies, and in in­land seas.

His­tor­i­cally, or­cas were tar­geted by fish­ers for con­sump­tion but no sig­nif­i­cant hunt­ing oc­curs to­day.

Nowa­days, one of the great­est po­ten­tial im­pacts is likely to be dis­tur­bance caused by ves­sel traf­fic.

The pres­ence of boats is known to dis­rupt the nor­mal be­hav­iour of these an­i­mals, par­tic­u­larly rest­ing, and un­der­wa­ter noise may dis­rupt

and echolo­ca­tion sig­nals and other com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Lea said it was im­por­tant peo­ple care for or­cas if they see them in the wa­ter, and fol­low the DoC guide­lines for shar­ing the coast with ma­rine mam­mals.

Gen­er­ally peo­ple should not dis­turb, ha­rass or make loud noises near ma­rine mam­mals. Con­tact should stop if an­i­mals ap­pear dis­turbed.

The play­ful younger mem­bers of the pod cheek­ily checked out the sight­seers near Auck­land’s North Shore.

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