Orca calf Toa is still confined to his pool because of the recent flooding polluting Porirua Harbour, but he is still doing well according to Dr Ingrid Visser.
Video / Mark Mitchell
A weather assessment will determine whether baby orca Toa can be returned to a sea pen today.
The orca has been held in a 32,000 litre temporary pool since Thursday evening after a storm that hit the Wellington region threatened to put volunteers and the animal at risk.
The aftermath of the weather caused contaminants to spill into the harbour forcing Greater Wellington Regional Council to issue a no swim notice.
The juvenile orca aged between 2 and 6 months was found stranded on rocks at Plimmerton beach near Porirua on July 11.
Search efforts that have taken place over the past 11 days to find the calf’s pod have been so far unsuccessful, leaving him in the care of the Department of Conservation (DoC), Whale Rescue and volunteers.
DoC marine species manager Ian Angus said 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.”
Angus said the orca calf’s welfare is assessed daily with decisions being made based on what is best for the animal. A range of scenarios is 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.”
He said they remain focused on trying to find the specific pod the orca calf has come from.
Angus said contingency planning for a range of scenarios continues.
There have been no further reported sightings today of orca pods.
Marine biologist Dr Ingrid Visser said Toa is doing well under the current situation.
“None of us like lockdown, he wants to be out in the ocean but we have to find his family first.”
Visser said they are expecting swells in the area to increase as the weather conditions worsen.
“The swells are not looking ideal but we are in consultation with the local iwi who know the area really well and the boating club here at Plimmerton and we are hoping to have a go- or no-go decision in the next half an hour to an hour.”
She said they aren’t currently focused on the discussion around euthanising the animal.
“Euthanasia was discussed really early on in the process with the Department of Conservation and iwi with our team and we decided that was not the track we wanted to go down.”
They are still encouraging members of the public to report sightings if they see orca, Visser said.
Anyone who sights orca pods is urged to provide as much information as possible to DoC, via email@example.com 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.