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Research conducted through the Orca Research Trust,

New Zealand is ongoing. We endeavour to ensure as much information and data as possible is accessible to the public.

  • Rescue / Strandings
  • Orca Facts
  • Scientific Articles
  • Orca Research
  • Marine Mammals Regs
  • Recent Events

Ben Miracle Nobby

BEN         MIRACLE            NOBBY

Click on the photo to see each profile.


Why do Orca get stuck on the beach?


When any animal is in trouble most people want to help out. Whale, dolphin & porpoise strandings are no exception and worldwide, people have become very successful at saving them.




The enigma for many people is why strandings occur in the first place. There are a wide range of circumstances which contribute to such an event.


Think of it like asking "Why did the car crash?" The answer could be many reasons depending on the particular accident. It could be: the driver fell asleep, a tyre burst, the car hit something on the road, the road was slippery, the driver was going too fast for the conditions, another car had an accident which set off a chain reaction or a number of other reasons (and perhaps for some accidents we will never know what caused them). All of these (or even more than one) could be the factor that triggered the event.


The same is true for whale, dolphin & porpoise (collectively called cetaceans) strandings.

There could be any number of reasons why they strand. It could be:


They were injured (perhaps run over by a boat),


They are sick (or perhaps have eaten plastic bags and are starving),


They are trying to help another cetacean already on the beach.


Ben cut dorsal fin


For the New Zealand orca it could be something even simpler. Often, they are so focused on hunting for rays (the main food for New Zealand orca) in the extremely shallow waters where rays are found, that they just make a mistake in judging how deep the water is and they get stuck!


Near beach


Nearly every stranding of orca in New Zealand (where the animal came ashore alive and didn't die out at sea and get washed ashore) has occurred on a shallow, sandy beach. This is exactly the type of habitat where the rays are and where orca hunt for them. Dr Ingrid Visser (the Founder of the Orca Research Trust) has watched orca get stuck whilst hunting for rays and has also watched these same orca manage to get themselves off the beach. When they aren't so lucky she has been involved in helping many of them back out to the ocean.


Remember, these animals are not suicidal, they need our help. If you find a stranded orca (or any whale or dolphin), call 0800 SEE ORCA (0800 733 6722)

If you find you can't get through, immediately call your nearest Emergency Response Number (111 in New Zealand; 911 in the USA) and ask for help. They will know who to call.


The focus for the Orca Research Trust is the orca of New Zealand.

Marine Mammals

However, we are also involved with orca research in Argentina, Antarctica and Papua New Guinea.
As time allows we will be adding information about each of these projects. Please check back periodically for updates.


Until then, perhaps you would like to read about our research in these areas by looking at the Scientific Articles section of our website.






























18th March 2010, Wellington

Orca Necropsy

Dominion Newspaper Article here LinkImage


15th March 2010, Whakatane

Moko the Dolphin, his friends and some tooth here