Researchers came to the rescue of a sevengill shark earlier this week after the frightened predator literally flung itself out of the sea in an effort to escape a pod of killer whales that were hunting it.
Orca expert Ingrid Visser was responsible for the unusual rescue, which took place on Monday in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. Accompanying a Japanese film crew that were working to document the killer whales, Visser encountered a pod of 16 orcas as they hunted stingray and sevengill sharks. Several of the sharks went to extreme lengths to evade the orcas, prompting the group to assist them.
— Shark Education (@Sharks4Kids) September 9, 2015
As Visser watched, one of the terrified sharks literally threw itself out of the sea, landing among a rock outcropping, as it struggled to escape the killer whales.
“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… It was high and dry.”
Coming to the sevengill shark’s aid, Visser grabbed its tail, attempting to move it back into the water. A flexible animal, the shark attempted to bite her several times, but on her fourth attempt, Visser was able to maneuver the two-meter-long shark back into the sea, watching it quickly swim away from the marauding pod of orcas.
— David Shiffman (@WhySharksMatter) September 8, 2015
The shark that Visser saved wasn’t the only one to flee the ocean to avoid the killer whales. As the team watched, they observed another sevengill shark landing among the rocks, though that specimen was able to free itself and get back into the water unaided. A third sevengill also attempted to jump into Visser’s boat, as the New Zealand Herald reports. As the film crew watched, five of the sharks fell victim to the orcas, which dispatched the smaller predators by using their tails as a weapon. After disabling the sharks with this tactic (often referred to as the “Karate Chop” method), the killer whales were able to prey upon the animals at will, as the Daily Mail reports.
— Marine Connection (@MC_org) September 9, 2015
Orcas have been well documented in the past preying upon even larger species of shark. Last year, a group of tourists in the Neptune Islands watched as an orca pod toyed with and eventually devoured a great white shark, teaching their young how to hunt the imposing predator in the process. Echoing similar encounters that have been witnessed along the Pacific coast of the United States, the white shark’s death drove the remaining members of its species out of the region for several weeks as they avoided the local orcas.