'Idiotic' Man Who Tried To 'Body Slam' Orca Gets Hit With Fine

A New Zealand man has been fined for what authorities are calling an attempt to “body slam” an orca in the wild.

Video posted on Instagram in February shows a man jumping off a boat to harass an adult orca and calf while those on board cheer him on. The man can be seen belly-flopping into the water directly next to one of the killer whales, and then swimming after one of them before shouting, “I touched it!”

“This is stupid behaviour and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca,” Hayden Loper, an officer with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, said in a Tuesday press release from the agency.

Loper called the man’s actions “absolutely idiotic” in an interview with the Guardian.

Investigators determined that the incident happened off the coast of Devonport, Auckland, and that the orca toucher was a 50-year-old Auckland man, whose name has not been released. He was fined 600 New Zealand dollars — or a little less than $400.

Things could have been much worse for him.

“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,” Loper said in the press release.

Hannah Hendriks, a marine technical adviser at the conservation department, told the Guardian that badgering orcas can still harm them, even if the animals aren’t physically injured. Disrupting the mammals’ rest, feeding or socializing “can have long-term impacts on survival and breeding success, while repeated disturbance may lead to animals avoiding an area,” she said.

Bothering a calf could be especially bad, she said, since it could result in the calf being separated from an adult it relies on for survival.

On Facebook, the conservation department responded to people who complained that the Auckland man’s fine was too low. The penalty was influenced by the fact that he had no prior violations and that the orca did not appear to be significantly harmed or disturbed.

However, the department noted that anyone charged with “harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing” a marine mammal could face a fine of up to 250,000 New Zealand dollars or two years behind bars.