Orca expert Ingrid Visser carried out a rescue of a different type when she saved a shark after it flung itself on to rocks fleeing from hungry orca in the Bay of Islands.
Dr Visser was with a visiting Japanese crew near Jacks Bay on Monday when a pod of 16 orca were spotted hunting stingray and sevengill sharks. It was a case of predator versus bigger predator and it was the sharks who came off second best.
"We were watching a group of orca hunt a shark when I saw a shark being chased by another group, leap up on to the rocks," Dr Visser said.
"It was high and dry."
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Her rescue instincts kicked in and soon she was on the rocks tugging at the shark's tail in a bid to flick it back into the water. She said sharks were very flexible and, during the rescue, the 2-metre-long sevengill shark turned and tried to bite her. After four attempts, she got the shark back in the water and completed her first shark rescue.
"It swam off quickly in the opposite direction to the orca."
Another shark trying to evade orca jaws jumped for safety on the rocks, but managed to get itself back into home waters, while a third shark tried to join Dr Visser in her boat when an orca was about to bite its tail. While the crew watched, the orca killed five sharks mostly using the well perfected "karate chop" method - the orca hitting the shark with their tails, stunning them then flipping them over and eating them.
Dr Visser said local orca were skilled in hunting sharks. She said it was normally this time of year orca were attracted to Northland waters to hunt rays and sharks.
The film crew hope to capture footage of world record freediver Ai Futaki swimming with orcas for a 74-minute documentary aimed at educating Japanese about the mighty orca. So far they had footage of orca swimming but not the money shot with Miss Futaki and an orca together.
They are keen for anyone spotting orca to ring 0800 SEE ORCA.