A young Orca calf that became stranded in the rocks near Plimmerton, north of Wellington, has been given the name Toa.
The name means brave or strong in Maori.
The baby orca is thought to be between two and six months old and was found 12 days ago with minor injuries.
After being found, hundreds of people, including the Department of Conservation (DOC), whale rescue teams and the local iwi (tribe) Ngāti Toa Rangatira, have been caring for Toa.
The stranded orca calf was held in a pool beside the sea after a bad storm forced rescuers to bring it in from the sea. However, the storm was so bad that Toa could not be shifted back to its original habitat because the water was contaminated.
Pleasingly, as of today, the condition of the sea has returned back to safe levels and Toa has now been moved back into a sea pen.
The DOC is still looking for Toa’s pod so it can be reunited. There have been a number of sightings from locals and some that are credible. But poor weather prevented rescuers from investigating these sightings further.
Generally, Toa’s health is good, aside from some stomach upsets. DOC experts and vets have been trying to find the right balance for his milk formula. Her general health is considered excellent at the moment.
Many people have come to visit Toa and watch her within her enclosure. Feeding times are the most popular. After Toa is finished being fed by his volunteers he rolls over and likes to have his belly rubbed. If they stop he nudges them again, wanting more.
When Toa is excited he zooms about his small holding pool, playing with the volunteers. He has been given a large tentacle-like piece of kelp which he likes to play with.
So far, the rescue operation has cost the taxpayer NZ$10,000 but other expenses are being paid for by the Orca Research Trust, and countless hours of volunteer time.