An amateur fishing crew that rescued a Babyorca from a crocodile line showed a video in which the mother calmed her young during the torture.
The crew of three was in a boat about 19 miles off the coast of New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay region on Wednesday when they spotted a group of orcas and discovered that one of them had got tangled up in a crab pot line and a buoy. This was revealed in a posting on the Whale Watch Hawkes Bay Facebook page, which shared a video of the encounter.
A member of the group, who wanted to be identified only as Ben, told Stuff.co.nz that he was on his friend’s boat at the time. The crab paw line was wrapped around the baby’s tail, Ben said. A crab trap is an antipodean term for a trap that resembles a basket and is used to catch crabs.
About three out of four orcas held the baby up and swam away as the boat approached at about 5:45 pm, Ben said. One stayed by the baby’s side and let the group believe it was its mother. The other orcas swam close to the mother.
The baby and the mother waited quietly while the fishermen worked to save the orca by cutting the line. The footage shows the mother pushing the baby to the side while the fishermen helped as if she was standing by their side in agreement.
It took about five minutes for the crew to rescue the orca, after which the group “disappeared,” Ben said.
Ben said that a friend later discovered a group of orcas further down the coast. “It’s good that they were seen again,” he said.
Mike Ogle, a ranger for biodiversity at the Ministry of Conservation, thanked the fishermen for their help for the orcas. He told Stuff.nz that whales and dolphins caught in nets and lines can be injured, exhausted or even drowned.
Ogle referred to a critically endangered bird found only in New Zealand: “It is not every day that someone rescues an animal that has the same threat level as kākāpō.”. Estimates suggest that the species of orcas frequently spotted off the New Zealand coast have declined by at least 10 percent over three generations, according to the Department of Conversation.
However, Ogle warned that those who see large whales or dolphins in trouble in the area should call 0800DOCHOT as they can be dangerous to humans.
Whale Watch Hawkes Bay asked on Facebook that people in the area help monitor the family by sending photos and videos.
Ingrid Visser, founder of the Orca Research Trust, told the New Zealand Herald that young orcas often get tangled up in crab lines while playing with buoys.
Visser said: “It is not unusual for orcas, whales and dolphins to lie there and accept such help. But there are many examples where whales lash out and people can get hurt”.