Baby orca Toa lost his family in New Zealand, race to find his mother

Volunteers help care for baby orca To a who has lost his family in Wellington, New Zealand, July 13, 2021, source: AAP Image/Ben McKay/via Reuters
Volunteers help care for baby orca To a who has lost his family in Wellington, New Zealand, July 13, 2021, source: AAP Image/Ben McKay/via Reuters

Wildlife rescuers in New Zealand are trying to keep the stranded baby orca Toa alive while looking for his mother.

Toa, a male aged four to six months, washed ashore on rocks north of Wellington on Sunday. The baby orca was refloated by wildlife officers after the distressed members of his family pod swam off, the Department of Conservation said.

Toa, which means warrior in Maori, is unweaned and unable to survive alone in the ocean. “He’s still young. That’s one of the big challenges we have,” marine species manager Ian Angus told AFP.

“We have to think about how we ensure we get him back to his mother because he needs help, certainly with the feeding,” Angus said.

“How do we locate his mother? That’s the second big challenge, which we’re now struggling with,” he added.

Angus said they’ll look by air and sea to find Toa’s family, and the public is encouraged to report any orca sightings.

Toa is being kept in a makeshift pen set up between two piers at the seaside suburb of Plimmerton. The 2.5 meters (eight-foot) baby orca is being fed via a tube every four hours and monitored around the clock by volunteers.

“He’s been through quite a stressful experience, but his health at the moment looks good,” Angus said.

Angus said they must find Toa’s mother because there are no facilities in New Zealand that could care for the animal long-term.

Orcas are the largest species of dolphins and are listed as critically endangered in New Zealand, where their population is estimated at 150-200.

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