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Vets couldn’t save him: stranded baby orca dies

baby orca dies
DoC photo

Report from RNZ
Toa, the orca calf separated from its pod and stranded in Plimmerton, has died. He was thought to be between three and six months old.

Whale Rescue posted on social media this evening that his condition rapidly deteriorated.

“We have to report that a little time ago Toa rapidly deteriorated and vets on site rushed to his aid but were unable to save him,” Whale Rescue posted at 9pm.

“We have no further details as to what happened as you can all imagine we are devastated. No more updates will be posted at this time.”

DoC said on Wednesday that the stranded orca calf sustained injuries during the stranding and, while most were healing well, others required ongoing monitoring. However, it was conscious of the stress the orca must be under, as it had been a long time away from its pod and mother and kept in temporary enclosures.

Volunteers, DoC and Whale Rescue staff, and local iwi Ngāti Toa Rangatira worked closely to care for him. Volunteers took turns around the clock to stay with him, first in a temporary pen using fencing and a boat ramp, then in a pool when the weather worsened. He was moved into a sea pen last night.

The Plimmerton community rallied around Toa’s support crew, offering accommodation, essential items and an endless stream of scones.

Whale Rescue said earlier today he was really enjoying being back in the ocean. “Toa was moved to the sea pen last night and is really enjoying the freedom of being able to move around on his own. It’s now basically a hands off environment with volunteers encouraging him to swim and make his own decisions about where he wants to be.”

baby orca with health problems
RNZ photo

Earlier News from Dept of Conservation
A sighting of an orca pod on the Kāpiti Coast is being investigated by air and sea, while the orca calf remains stable at the Plimmerton Boating Club. Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager Ian Angus says two aircraft are searching and a DOC boat is on the water in response to the reported sighting south of Raumati.

“If the boat is able to find a pod, we will take photographs that can be used to identify whether it is the one that the orca calf came from, based on the unique markings on the orca.”

“However, if it is the right pod, we will not be able to reunite the orca calf today, given the limited amount of daylight left and the intricacies of the operation.”

Search efforts will continue in the morning, to take advantage of fine weather forecast to last until Sunday.

The focus is still to reunite the orca calf with its pod, which has now been in care for 12 days.

Earlier News from Dept of Conservation
The orca calf at the Plimmerton Boating Club is responding well to being back in the sea pen, while efforts to find the stranded calf’s pod will ramp up through the fine weather. Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager Ian Angus says the transfer of the orca calf back into the sea pen last night went smoothly. “As soon as the calf was back in the sea, he started calling and zooming around the pen.”

Water quality tests came back showing there are no issues with contamination and it is safe to swim in.

Ian Angus says plans to increase the search efforts are being pulled together, to make the most of a fine weather window which is forecast until Sunday.

“We remain focused on trying to find the orca calf’s pod. Our efforts will be focused on the lower half of the North Island and upper half of the South Island. However, we are still calling for people to report any sightings from anywhere in the country, as New Zealand orca can travel up to 160km a day. Reports with photos or video are particularly helpful, as we can identify the calf’s pod by the unique markings on the orca.”

Ian Angus says all decisions are still being made based on the health and wellbeing of the calf, and we are planning thoroughly for a range of options.

News from Dept of Conservation – July 22
A decision has been made to move the orca calf from a temporary pool at Plimmerton Boating Club back into the sea pen. Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager Ian Angus says the orca calf’s health has been assessed and vets have determined that it would be in its best interests to return it to a larger area.

“The calf has injuries to his pectoral fins and tail fluke and needs to stretch out in deeper water. It also has an issue with an inflamed eye which vets believe would respond better in salt water.”

The calf has also been more lethargic today and not vocalising as much as previously.

DOC has also been seeking assurances about water quality in the harbour before allowing people and the orca back into the sea.

“We are also keeping a close eye on the weather forecast but we are aiming to return the orca calf to the sea pen this evening. Because it is close to nightfall, we are keeping people at the site to a minimum required for health and safety reasons.”

Earlier News from Department of Conservation
There was no change overnight for the orca calf at the Plimmerton Boating Club, with the next steps to be determined by the weather forecast.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager Ian Angus says the orca calf fed and rested well overnight and remains stable.

“We are looking at the feeding regime to make sure the orca calf is getting the right food and consulting with international orca experts about the species’ nutritional needs.”

He says the orca calf’s welfare is assessed daily with decisions being made based on what is best for the animal. A range of scenarios are being planned for.

“Whether the orca calf will remain in the temporary pool or move back to a sea pen today will be determined after a detailed assessment of the weather forecast.”

Any sightings of orca should be reported to DOC HOT 0800 362 468 or via marinemammals@doc.govt.nz. If the pod is in the lower North Island or Marlborough region this would give the best chance of successful reunification.

“We remain focused on trying to find the specific pod the orca calf has come from. This can be verified based on markings on the orca, so any photos or video that people can provide alongside reported sightings are extremely helpful.”

A DOC boat is out on the water, but as New Zealand orca pods have been recorded moving up to 160km a day, reported sightings from boaties and the public remain valuable as it provides the information needed to do a detailed search.

Ian Angus says reported sightings are being actively gathered and validated before a decision is made whether to investigate further. Boats or planes are being used to investigate where possible.

The Plimmerton Boating Club site remains closed to the public to reduce stress for the orca calf.

News from Department of Conservation – July 21
The persistence of poor weather has meant that there will be no change for the orca calf being cared for at the Plimmerton Boating Club and it is likely to remain in the temporary pool for at least another day. The young orca has now been in our care for 10 days.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager Ian Angus says the veterinarians have done their regular health assessments and some of the previous health issues are no longer a cause for concern.

“While the calf remains in the temporary pool, the welfare of the calf is uppermost, and the public are advised to stay away so that staff and volunteers can focus on looking after the calf. Weather conditions are continually being reassessed,” Ian Angus says.

“We want to minimise the potential for stress for the calf and with poor weather predicted until at least Friday, we have to be disciplined in our approach to managing the calf,” he says.

Earlier News from Dept of Conservation
The stranded orca calf remains in a stable condition at Plimmerton but onsite veterinarians are continuing to monitor some health concerns. DOC Marine Species Manager Ian Angus says some of the injuries sustained by the calf during the stranding are healing well, but others require monitoring.

“The calf did display some short-term signs of discomfort in his gut, likely associated with trying to get the delicate balance of feeding requirements right.”

Orca don’t typically wean until one to two years of age.

The young orca has now been in our care for over a week. It remains in the temporary pool with staff and volunteers keeping an eye on the weather, with wind and swells forecast. A move to the sea pen is not likely today.

The incoming rough weather means it is unlikely the team will be able to have boats out following up pod sightings later today. Any sightings of orca should be reported to DOC HOT 0800 362 468 or via marinemammals@doc.govt.nz. Pods in the lower north island and Marlborough region give the best chance of release.

“Our focus at the moment is on finding the specific pod the orca calf has come from. We will try to verify the pod based on the markings of the orca, so any photographs people can provide with reported sightings will help immensely.

“We are still planning for a range of scenarios. We are optimistic that we may find the pod, and the orca’s health is still stable, but we are also being realistic as we consider the ongoing welfare of this animal – that has to be our number one concern.”

Veterinarians are onsite day and night and continue to carry out health checks on the animal.

The site remains closed to the public to reduce stress for the orca calf.

Last Sunday (11 July), the orca calf was stranded on rocks near Plimmerton, north of Wellington. An ongoing operation to care for the orca calf is being led by DOC with support from Orca Research Trust/Whale Rescue Trust, local iwi Ngāti Toa Rangatira, and the local community.

News from Dept of Conservation – July 20
Sightings of orca in the Wellington region made earlier today have been investigated, but searches by boat and air have not been able to locate a pod.

“We continue to monitor the health of the orca calf and it remains in a stable condition,” says Ian Angus, Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager. “We’re very conscious the length of time the calf has been in our care, away from its pod and mother, is now over a week. That’s not ideal for such a young wild animal.

“Tonight the orca will remain in the temporary holding pool, but we will review options tomorrow morning, factoring in weather conditions, any health warnings about the seawater in the harbour, and the calf’s welfare. The health and welfare of the calf are central to our decision making.”

International experts now believe the calf may be between 2-6 months of age, rather than 4-6 months as had been originally suspected. The age of the orca calf naturally determines how long the calf needs care and feeding.

Earlier News from Department of Conservation
With favourable weather and credible sightings, the focus today is on the search for the juvenile orca’s pod in and around Wellington. Sightings were reported this morning at Seatoun and Makara.

There will be air and sea searches today. Please report any orca sightings to marinemammals@doc.govt.nz or 0800 DOC HOT. Essential information includes location of the pod, direction of travel of the animals, and photographs or videos which clearly show the saddle/back markings of the animals and their dorsal fins.

“Today’s weather offers us the best a good chance to look for the orca pod, especially with the credible sightings near Wellington. We will have a boat in the water and the aeroclub are helping with an air search. If you do see an orca pod please report it straight away and make sure you keep a 50 metre distance from it,” says Ian Angus, Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager.

The orca remains in the temporary pool at Plimmerton while seawater quality is being assessed and weather conditions monitored.

“Moving the orca can create stress for it, so with bad weather expected from Wednesday evening it may remain in the temporary pool until the weather clears later in the week, rather than moving it twice,” says Ian Angus.

“We are assessing wind and swell conditions and are waiting for updates on the water quality, both of which impact the safety of the sea pen for the orca and volunteers.

“The orca had a case of colic last night but vets have been monitoring it and it seems to have recovered. The orca is stable this morning in the temporary pool.”

The Porirua site continues to remain closed to the public today for safety reasons and consideration of the orca’s welfare.

Last Sunday (11/7), the orca calf was stranded on rocks near Plimmerton, north of Wellington. An ongoing operation to care for the orca calf is being led by the Department of Conservation (DOC) with support from Orca Research Trust/Whale Rescue Trust, local iwi Ngati Toa Rangatira, and the local community.

DOC, veterinarians and Whale Rescue/Orca Research Trust are continuing to receive regular advice from international orca experts and veterinarians – information proving vital as decisions are made.

Anyone who sights orca pods off the lower North Island’s west coast or in Marlborough Sounds is urged to provide as much information as possible to DOC, via marinemammals@doc.govt.nz or by calling 0800 DOC HOT. Essential information includes location of the pod, direction of travel of the animals, and photographs or videos which clearly show the saddle/back markings of the animals and their dorsal fins.

Earlier reports

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5 comments:

  1. Daniel Searle, 21. July 2021, 13:36

    How many thousands of dollars going to be spent finding the pod? The money could be better used elsewhere.

     
  2. Daniel C., 21. July 2021, 16:03

    I’d rather my taxes were spent on DOC and this Orca than any of the silly over-funded sports involving violent adult men chasing a ball around a paddock or millionaires chasing the wind in their boats … Let’s protest rugby/violence, not Orcas!

     
  3. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 24. July 2021, 0:12

    Respect and commiserations to all those who gave their time, skills and energy to try to save this creature.

     
  4. Ray Chung, 24. July 2021, 19:49

    Like many others, I was hoping that poor Toa’s pod and parents would be found. So sad.

     
  5. Takasumi Kanban, 26. July 2021, 7:13

    Why do they feel compelled to meddle with these creatures? If it had damaged fins due to confinement, the orca should have been released into the ‘wild’ much sooner, at least it would have had a fighting chance. Sad.