Ingrid Visser – Orca Protector

Friday, June 20, 2014
Ingrid Visser, Sept 1999  Photographer B.J. Berghan
With a strong affinity with the ocean from a young age, it was not surprise that Ingrid Visser followed a natural path to became a guardian of all orcas, not only in New Zealand but all of Australasia.
Instrumental in creating worldwide awareness of wild orca, Ingrid Visser has already achieved more than what many people do in a life time. She has made countless television and documentary appearances, been featured in many popular magazine articles and has also developed two children’s books and an autobiography.  She has published a collection of scientific manuscripts in peer reviewed journals, along with seminars at marine mammal conferences throughout the world.
Ingrid’s love affair the sea began very early – her family sailed around the world on a 57 foot yacht WAI-O-TIRA (“Traveller over water”) and lived on the boat for four and a half years.
Ingrid completed a degree in veterinary science, followed by another in zoology. She then completed a PhD in marine biology at Auckland University following eight years of orca research.
Ingrid founded the Orca Project in 1992, the first project dedicated to orca in the South Pacific Ocean. Ongoing research includes photographic identification of individual orca, as well as behavioural observations and recording sightings of each orca.
Adopt an Orca was founded in 1998  and this was the first whale or dolphin adoption programme in Australasia. Set up by Ingrid to facilitate awareness and education of these amazing animals, the public were invited to contribute to the research costs and in return would receive certificates and newsletters. The sighting data received from the public would help Ingrid with her research on the different pods of orca around New Zealand.
Due to New Zealand’s shallow beaches we have the highest number of orca strandings in the world.
Ingrid has assisted in the rescue of many stranded orca – one male named Ben was beached at Mangawhai, Northland in May 1997 and was re-floated with the help of volunteers. Unfortunately, a year later Ben was seen with severe damage to his dorsal fin where he had been struck by a propeller.
In 2003 Ingrid recorded a female orca named Miracle with a calf, named Magic.  Miracle had been stranded and re-floated in 1993 and this was the first NZ record of an orca giving birth to a calf after being re-floated.
Whale standings are still far too common in New Zealand’s waters and Ingrid strives to make make a real difference to this growing reality.
Ingrid Visser still continues her amazing work today through the Orca Research Trust and many other community projects dedicated to creating worldwide awareness of these majestic animals. 
Ingrid Visser and Ben, May 1997  Photographer T. Hardie