Posted by: The ocean update | March 29, 2010

Killer whale attacks dolphin in front of tourists (New Zealand)

These amazing pictures show a killer whale attacking and killing a female dolphin and her pup in front of tourists on a nature watching cruise.

orca_attack
Photo : Wildlife photographer Tommy Hatwell watched as one of the whales, a female, attacked one of the dolphins, a female with her young pup, eventually tossing her into the air and snapping her back. Photo: Tommy Hatwell / Explore Images/Ferrari Press Agency

29 Mar 2010. The orca (killer whale) was in party of a pod of about eight whales which targeted a larger number of smaller dolphins, known as false killer whales or pseudo orcas.

Tommy Hatwell, a wildlife photographer, watched as one of the whales, a female, attacked one of the dolphins, a female with her young pup, eventually tossing her into the air and snapping her back.

She died almost immediately and the rest of the whales then closed in to devour her and her helpless youngster

The attack happened at a seaside beauty spot called Black Rocks, in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

Hatwell works for New Zealand company Explore Images which arranges nature tours and takes photos to help tourists enjoy their experience. He was with them on a dolphin and whale watching boat

Rob Hunt, a company boss, said the event was a “one in a million” chance.

He added: “The boat was just 50 to 100m away while the killing occurred, as the other pseudo orcas fled.”

He said markings showed it was a female killer whale that chased the doomed dolphin after apparently singling it out.

“It chased it for several minutes, playing with it before flicking the unfortunate creature about 10 metres into the air, then breaking its back on her nose.

“We have been in operation for a little over two years and take on average 400 photos of wildlife a day in addition to tourists interacting with nature.

“I have never known anything like this before to be captured on film. This is mother nature at its most brutal, a rare occurrence that it was seen by humans, and even more rare that it was captured on camera.

“It is very real when you see these photos of just how fierce killer whales are. Pseudo orcas are a very rare species of dolphin and there is only one known pod in New Zealand.

“They have only been sighted in the Bay of Islands twice this year. After showing the photos to a selection of scientists, all had not seen this before.”

Rochelle Constantine, a marine mammal scientist, who was shown the pictures by Mr Hunt said the sight of killer whales hunting a large marine mammal like this was “almost unheard of.”

She added: “In New Zealand, for two species to be in the same place at the same time is very rare.

“Pseudo orca, or false killer whales, are dolphins with all the characteristics of an orca – except a lot smaller, and no match for the real thing.”

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