Fear for welfare of baby orca Toa who lost his family in New Zealand

Three people surrounding the baby orca in a small swimming pool while they're feeding him
People help to feed Toa, the baby orca, at a pool in Pilmerton, photo: Whale Rescue Hannah via Reuters

New Zealand is racing to locate a pod of orcas to save the stranded male calf Toa, who might be euthanized if his family is not found.

The baby orca was found stranded on rocks north of Wellington on July 11 with minor injuries. Ever since they found Toa, wildlife rescuers have been looking for his family, but with no success.

Toa, who is between two to six months old, was first brought to a sea pen in Plimmerton while marine experts and volunteers searched for his family.

Because of a storm, he was moved a week ago into a temporary 32,000-litre seawater pool set up at the local boating club’s parking lot.

Marine biologist Ingrid Visser said they know how frustrating it is for him to be kept in the small pool.

“So the vets and the animal care staff are looking after him 24/7, and they’re monitoring him all the time,” Visser said.

“We recognize how frustrating it is for him to be in such a small pool, so we’re keen to get him into the sea pen as quickly as we can,” she added.

Local media are reporting they might move him back into the sea pen by Thursday (July 22) night, depending on weather conditions.

A range of scenarios, including euthanasia, are being developed together with the country’s Department of Conservation. But the focus on reuniting Toa with his family remains the priority.

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