Two orca hunting an electric ray and then a shark off Northland's coast have delighted a visiting National Geographic crew in the region to capture footage of the impressive marine mammals.
The orca, believed to be brothers, were spotted near Bream Head off Whangārei Harbour and the quick notification enabled the film crew and orca expert Ingrid Visser to launch and catch the duo near Taiharuru Heads on Sunday.
Visser, of the Orca Research Trust, said the underwater camera team had a brief encounter as the orca were hunting an electric ray and the topside crew watched in awe as the orca hunted a shark.
The film crew are only in New Zealand for three weeks and hope to capture footage that shows orca culture and demonstrates how New Zealand orca are different to those found elsewhere in the world.
Visser said weather conditions were rough so water visibility was limited for filming purposes. The film crew left the brothers to continue their hunting trip north when the crew reached Matapouri.
Visser said it was vital for members of the public to continue their good work and continue to call the 0800 733 6722 or 0800 SEE ORCA number.
"We have been getting calls from the South Island and the Auckland and Far North regions over the past few days, so clearly the orca are around," Visser said.
"You could be the first caller - but the second or third call could be the one that gives us the critical information as to where the orca are heading, how fast they are travelling or where we should launch the boat - so each and every call plays a critical role in finding the orca."
The resulting footage will appear in a limited television series on the National Geographic Channel, beginning in 2020. The series consists of four hour-long programmes on whale culture, each focusing on a different whale species.
Red Rock Films, a production company based near Washington, DC, is collaborating with Visser.
The crew is joined by New Zealand underwater cameraman and filmmaker Kina Scollay.
A social media co-ordinator will monitor online traffic for orca sightings in the region, to help the team locate the animals.
To report an orca sighting or stranding via social media, contact Ingrid Visser on 0800 SEE ORCA or through the Orca Research Trust via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OrcaResearchTrust
Or Kina Scollay at https://www.facebook.com/kinascollay or on Instagram at @kinascollay.