By Tui Benjamin
A fearsome killer whale has been caught on camera ripping out a huge stingray’s liver with ‘surgical precision’ in a rarely-filmed battle to the death.
Damon Ward used a drone to film the 26ft orca biting the short tail stingray in the shallow waters of Ruby Bay in New Zealand – the only country the world where the predators are known to feast on rays in this way.
The wildlife vlogger then discovered the 6ft5in ray’s carcass – which was still intact apart from bite marks where the liver had been carefully removed – on the beach.
Damon, who goes by online moniker Clay Tall Stories, said orca are known to feast on the livers of great white sharks, stingrays and skates because they have developed an appetite for an organic chemical compound found there called squalene.
Outdoor survival enthusiast Damon, 53, said: “The rarity of what we captured is amazing.
“I was high from filming this for a week. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. It was the money shot – it really was.
“New Zealand is the only country in the world where orca feed on stingrays.
“It is very dangerous and risky for the killer whales to hunt rays, because they can be killed by blood loss or the venom from the sting.
“If this one had the sting go through its eye, that would have been definite death.
“What I captured on film was an alpha bull orca, about eight metres long and weighing probably 5,000kg.
“What is amazing is how it surgically removes the liver. They are after the squalene that is in the liver.
“It’s a chemical compound which contains all the nutrients and amino acids they need
“They’re so clever – they just take it out. They remove that part with surgical precision, and leave the rest.”
Damon filmed the remarkable footage last Saturday using two cameras and a drone.
In the footage, the killer whale can be seen using its tail to flip the stingray to the surface before biting it to tear out the liver – sending blood spilling into the ocean.
The whale then swims out into the open ocean before Damon finds the stingray’s body washed up on the beach to inspect.
He added: “Capturing this was no accident, because I’ve been trying to catch this on camera for years.
“My father called me up and said there were orca in the bay and I was meant to be on my way to the airport to catch a flight.
“We were so lucky to capture that shot and get on top of it with the drone at the perfect moment.
“When he makes the quick turn in the water, he is using his tail to lift the stingray off the bottom of the ocean floor before catching it and bringing it to the surface to bite.
“They are amazing animals. They are the number one predator in the ocean, but they do not kill us.
“They kill great white sharks, they hunt polar bears, they have even been recorded hunting moose up rivers.”