Dr. Ingrid N. Visser has spent most of her life studying and caring for Orca Whales. As the only Orca research specialist in New Zealand, she runs the Orca Research Trust, a registered New Zealand Charity, according to the Orca Research Trust website.
As part of the Orca Research Trust, Visser runs a hotline where people can report stranded Orca sightings. She and her team work to rescue the trapped animals and return them to their home safely, as seen in the video below.
"There's really no words to describe what it's like to save an Orca's life," Visser told GoPro.
One particular rescue endeared the loyalty of the whale to Visser. "Ben" became stranded on the New Zealand Mangawhat Beach when his pectoral fins became stuck in the sandy bottom of the ocean, according to GoPro.
Visser and her team spent hours digging the sand out from around his fin and then followed him as he returned to his pod safely. Sometime after his release he was hit by a boat which collapsed his dorsal fin. While he is still able to swim, the damage poses a serious threat to the stability of his fin, according to Orca Research Trust.
"There's one Orca that we rescued, and his name is Ben. When I get into the water he'll swim right up next to me ... he's just peeking over. I mean, here you have this sentient being, this animal that's self aware, that looks you right in the eye," Visser told GoPro.
While Visser said that the animals most likely don't recognize people, they are curious about humans. "... They certainly seem to be fascinated with us and I find it really sad that we as humans abuse that."
The aim of Orca Research Trust is to help protect the Orca whale and their environment through education, research and encouraging conservation efforts, according to Orca Research Trust. Visser also spends time as an advocate for the release of whales in captivity, according to Orca Research Trust.
In November of 2015, Visser was recognized as a Local Hero at the New Zealander of the Year Awards, according to her Facebook page.