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Ray skips lunch with orcas

A stingray leaps out of the water to avoid a too-close encounter with one of the hungry orcas making its way up the Waitemata Harbour from St Heliers to Okahu Bay.
A stingray leaps out of the water to avoid a too-close encounter with one of the hungry orcas making its way up the Waitemata Harbour from St Heliers to Okahu Bay. New Zealand Herald/Brett Phibbs
ROUNDTOP, Funky Monkey, Porky, Fuego, Digit, Miracle and Magic made a splash at Kohimarama and St Heliers in New Zealand yesterday.

The pod of adult and baby orca whales came in close to the shore to hunt for rays, much to the delight of hundreds of spectators.

Elizabeth Meadows was out for her morning walk when she saw the pod at St Heliers Bay.

"I followed them to Kohimarama. They were leaping out of the water chasing stingrays. It looked like they were teaching the younger ones how to hunt."

Some onlookers were worried that the whales would become stranded because they were hunting so close to the shore.

But orca researcher Ingrid Visser said it was common for them to swim near shallow waters looking for rays.

She had tracked the group of whales from the Kaipara Coast near Helensville.

They were easily recognisable to her team of researchers as "each animal looks different, like people".

The whales were given their names by Dr Visser and her fellow researchers.

About seven whales were in the group, but watchers could see only about five at a time.

Dr Visser said it was likely the whales were spread out around the bays.

St Heliers School pupil Kate Pilkinton, who joined fellow Year 3 classmates on St Heliers beach to watch the orcas, had mixed feelings about the experience.

"It's really cool, but it's not that interesting because all they do is lift their fins up.

"It looked like there was steam coming out," she said, referring to the orcas' blowholes.

Dr Visser said the pod could be heading south.

"I suspect they're heading towards Thames but I'm not 100 per cent sure. They could turn around and head back north."

View video of the orcas on the New Zealand Herald.

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