Juvenile orca puts on a show

GEORGE GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2014
Orca
George Gardner
BIG LEAP: The juvenile orca makes one of many jumps as the pod heads past Wharetana Bay towards Oakura Bay.

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The sight of a leaping juvenile orca made the day of a few fortunate onlookers in Putiki Bay.

The baby breacher was part of a pod of five orcas which arrived in the bay at around 8.25am on Thursday morning.

They were scanning the waters for stingrays in Anzac Bay and cruised past Dead Dog, Wharetana and Oakura bays before heading off in the direction of Rocky Bay at 9.40am.

The oceanic dolphins, also known as killer whales, are not an uncommon sight around Waiheke waters in winter but Wharf Rd resident Dave Collins says he's never seen one leap.

"It's the first time I've seen an orca breach, when they jump out of the water like that. It was a very young one.

"Over the years I've spotted orca quite a bit - here and around Ponui. I've seen up to ten with that pod even though there were only five today. But it doesn't mean they're not all around. They can branch off."

He even knows some of their names.

"The male, who is the boss, is called Funky Monkey - he has a floppy dorsal fin. The little one has a fin bitten off and it's called Pickles. I'm not sure if it's male or female."

Dave, like other orca spotters, phones their location to 0800 SEE ORCA as soon as he sees one.

The number belongs to the Orca Research Trust run by Dr Ingrid Visser whose work is dedicated to the protection of the marine mammal.

The trust relies on orca sightings from the public and says it would rather receive 10 calls about the same sighting than none at all.

Individual orcas can be identified by the shape of the light area behind the dorsal fin, marks and nicks on the fin, or the shape of the white eye patch.

Phone 0800 733 6722 if you see orcas anywhere around New Zealand. Go to orcaresearch.org to find out more.

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