Researchers in Russia were pleasantly surprised when a juvenile orca cozied up to their tiny inflatable boat in a playful but emotional close encounter.

A volunteer with the Far East Russia Orca Project captured video of the encounter over the summer, but its first apparent media exposure outside of Russia came when the Mirror posted the video Wednesday:

Clearly the boaters are moved by the close encounter as the orca swims next to the inflatable boat--close enough to touch--and seems to nudge it on one of its passes.

“Rare and very emotional meeting with young and curious orca AV102a from the Hookie family in Avacha Bay (Kamchatka, Russia)," Dmitrij Voronov told Newsflare about his video.

FEROP reacted on Facebook about the encounter by saying, "He is very playful and surprises us every field season."

A juvenile orca playfully approaches researchers on an inflatable boat.

Kamchatka is the only place in Russia where orcas are studied, according to the FEROP website.

"Russian orcas are probably not endangered but when considered as various individual breeding populations their numbers are much less and need to be monitored and the population structure clarified," FEROP says. "In recent years, Japanese and other aquariums have taken an interest in obtaining Russian orcas, due to the proximity of the orcas in waters due north of Japan, as well as the lack of protection for orcas in these waters...

"Fisheries Department continues to approve a yearly quota of 10 animals.

"There is still much to learn in order to understand the Russian Far East killer whale populations and we hope that our study will help prevent their further capture and will lead to a greater understanding of their population structure and to the threats to their habitat, including hydrocarbon (seismic) exploration (potential oil spills and noise) and overfishing of their prey species."

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