A mother orca whale helped keep her baby calm as a crew of recreational fishermen worked to untangle the calf in the waters near Napier, New Zealand.
Whale in Distress
One of the crew, who just gave his name as Ben, said they realized the calf had become tangled in a craypot line and buoy. A craypot is a basket-shaped trap used to catch crayfish.
“There were about three or four holding the baby up and as we got closer, they all moved away, except for one, which we assumed was the mother,” Ben told Stuff.Co.Nz.
The other orcas didn’t just take off, though. They circled close by the mother, who refused to leave the calf’s side.
The fishermen saw that the calf was caught in the craypot line near its tail. So they dragged up the line and started cutting it away from the calf’s tail.
Throughout the process, the mother and the calf remained calm. The mother appeared to be giving the calf little supportive nudges.
Whales on the Move
It took the fishermen less than five minutes to set the calf free, Stuff.Co.Nz reported. After they did, the orcas quickly vanished beneath the waves.
The fishermen never saw the orcas again. But soon after that encounter, people reported spotting a small group of whales moving along the coastline toward Napier. Ben thinks it was the same group.
Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Mike Ogle told Stuff.Co.Nz the fishermen did a good deed in setting the orca free.
“We’d like to thank the people who untangled the baby orca,” he said. “Whales and dolphins can become injured, exhausted and drown in nets and lines.”
Ogle added that larger whales can be dangerous, so people who spot one in trouble should contact wildlife specialists who can safely disentangle it.
A video of the encounter is available on the Whale Watch Hawkes Bay Facebook page.