Date: 14 July 2021
The orca calf – believed to be between four and six months old – stranded on rocks at Plimmerton on Sunday afternoon. It is remains in a temporary enclosure near a wharf at Hongoeka, with volunteers from Whale Rescue/Orca Rescue trust working alongside Department of Conservation (DOC) and local iwi Ngati Toa.
Ian Angus, DOC Marine Species Manager, says there have been two reported sightings of a pod off the Kapiti Coast – including a sighting this morning near Kapiti Island. DOC dispatched its own vessel to the area the pod was seen, and an aircraft is also in flight this morning as part of the search.
Ian Angus says although the sightings of the pod are encouraging, DOC wants to verify the sightings as it begins planning for what would be a logistically challenging operation.
Weather, sea conditions, available sunlight and the location of the pod from the shore are all key factors in any attempt to reunite the calf with its pod. If the pod is spotted, it will be trailed by the Whale Rescue DOC vessel for as long as possible until nightfall.
Ian Angus says the situation remains complex and challenging – particularly given the very young age of the orca.
“We’re working through planning a range of scenarios,” he says. “The prospect of reuniting the calf with its pod is encouraging, but we do need to keep all our options open.
“I want to emphasise the welfare of the calf is at the centre of all our discussions and the decisions we’re making.”
The calf received more veterinarian-assisted feeding this morning, a mix of electrolytes, nutrients and fish oil. The wildlife veterinarians says the calf remains stable and although showing some signs of stress, it is generally exhibiting normal behaviour for an animal its age.
Volunteers are in the temporary pen with the calf, working shifts to keep the animal moving and safe. Biosecurity protocols are in place for shift handovers, to ensure there is no transmission of disease.
DOC, veterinarians and Orca Research Trust continue to receive regular advice from international orca experts – information proving vital as decisions are made.
Anyone who sights orca pods off the Wellington or Kapiti coast is urged to provide as much information as possible – location, direction of travel of the animals, and photographs or videos which clearly show the saddle/back markings of the animals and their dorsal fins.
Mr Angus says DOC appreciates the continued support of the public but is asking people to respect the rehabilitation efforts of the team at the site.
Editor’s note: DOC expects to offer a further update at 4 pm on 14 July.
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