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Orca provide holiday treat at Kawau Bay

A pod of orca, or killer whales, which frequently visits Kawau Bay, put in a timely appearance on Tuesday to the delight of adults and kids enjoying the school holidays.

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 From mid-morning till late afternoon the group of orca, numbering around ten individuals, cruised from Sandspit to Scandrett’s and return, coming to within 10 metres of the beaches.  Onlookers at Algies Bay were treated to amazing sights as the orca splashed and cavorted in shallow water close to the shore, the large male named Funkey monkey showing off his huge dorsal fin about a metre high (above).
Underwater and wildlife cameraman Steve Hathaway, who has a DOC marine mammals filming permit to approach the whales, spent several hours tracking and filming the orca from his boat, as they fed on stingrays in Goldsworthy Bay and ripped them apart in front of his camera lens.  Steve has filmed orca many times in the past, in association with orca expert Dr Ingrid Visser, and for the BBC and Jean-Michel Cousteau.
With such amazing fine weather and flat calm conditions, Steve was able to get some excellent footage from a high vantage point standing on the cabin roof of his boat, normally impossible in choppy conditions.

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Included in the group is a young orca only two years old.  It is distinctive as at an early stage in its life it lost the top half of its dorsal fin.  It is not clear how this was lost, but it is now a very obvious marker making this particular orca easy to keep track of to follow its progress as it grows and develops a position in the social hierarchy of the pod.

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If you are boating in the area, keep a sharp lookout for orca particularly if you are travelling at speed, as boat strike is one of the main causes of serious injury to orca.  When Steve was filming in the Sandspit channel a boat zoomed past in the 5-knot zone and an orca immediately popped up in its wake!

Roger Grace

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