Introduction

A mission to save an abandoned orca calf has led to the calf being transferred into a temporary structure where it is receiving care from marine mammal experts.

Date:  03 August 2016 Source:  Orca Tactical Response Group: DOC is working with iwi, the Orca Research Trust and the local community as part of the Orca Tactical Response Group. This is the latest media release from the group.

The calf has spent 20 days without its pod and its health has been deteriorating. Attempts by experts from the Orca Research Trust to feed the calf were unsuccessful.

“The land-based structure is a temporary holding area that gets the maki out of the strong tidal flows in its current location“, explains iwi representative Carlton Bidois. “We’re still focused on the next step of the operation which is the creation of a sea-pen in the water.”

The decision to move the calf was made following an assessment by the Orca Research Trust. Experts Jeff Foster and Dr Ingrid Visser concluded the calf needed to be removed from its current location, based on its declining health.

“Given the calf’s current level of emaciation, it’s unlikely to hydrate quickly even if we could unite it with a pod”, explains DOC Operations Manager Jeff Milham.

“DOC’s primary focus remains the safety of responders and the public. We’ve been diligent to address any safety concerns associated with managing the orca’s welfare. This is an unprecedented situation given the age of the calf. We are working with marine mammal experts and iwi to evaluate all the possible options.”

The location of the temporary holding structure and the sea-pen is being kept confidential to avoid unnecessary interactions with the whale. An exclusion zone has been set up.

The coastguard, the harbour master, local councils and the community have supported the operation.

Background information

  • An Orca Tactical Response Group is creating a structure to temporarily house the orca calf that has now spent 20 days without its pod in the Bay of Plenty. 
  • The health of the orca has been deteriorating over the past week, making it challenging to reunite the orca with a wild pod.
  • The structure will protect the orca from strong tidal flows while the tactical team evaluates options for further intervention.
  • Our goal is still to reunite the young orca with a pod in the wild.
  • This is an unprecedented situation given the age of the calf. We are working with marine mammal experts and iwi to evaluate all the possible options. 
  • DOC’s primary focus is on the safety of the responders and the public.

Contact

Caraline Abbott, DOC Supervisor, Community
Mobile: +64 21 0296 5019

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