Orca calf Toa dies after deteriorating rapidly

Toa the orca. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Toa, the orca calf separated from its pod, has died. He was thought to be between two and six months old.

Whale Rescue posted on social media on Friday night that his condition rapidly deteriorated.

"We have to report that a little time ago Toa passed away, he rapidly deteriorated and vets on site rushed to his aid but were unable to save him," Whale Rescue posted at 9pm.

"We have no further details as to what happened as you can all imagine we are devastated."

Department of Conservation (DOC) marine species manager Ian Angus said local iwi Ngāti Toa Rangatira, the many DOC staff, Orca Research Trust/Whale Rescue, and the local community tried hard to save him.

"We were always aware that the longer he was in captivity, away from his mother, the more likely it was that his health would deteriorate.

"Toa passed quickly, surrounded by love with his last days made as comfortable as possible."

Teams were united in wanting to do the best for the orca, and reuniting him with his pod was still the goal, Angus says.

"This calf had captured hearts, and no one wanted to believe that he didn't have a fighting chance.

"We will continue to treat Toa with the dignity and respect he deserves. Appropriate arrangements are being made with Ngāti Toa."

Angus thanked everyone who had volunteered their time and efforts to saving Toa, and everyone who had followed his journey.

Earlier Friday evening, DOC operations director Reg Kemper told Checkpoint that Toa was doing well after being moved into a sea pen last night.

A confirmed sighting of a pod off Kāpiti coast earlier that day had renewed hopes the orca calf may be reunited with its pod.

Reg says the teams looking after him were "totally focussed" on reuniting him with his pod, but they were also planning for what might happen if that couldn't happen.

He says there was "a lot of emotion" attached to the reunion and everyone involved in his care "has long-term interests of Toa at heart".

DOC said on Wednesday that the stranded orca calf sustained injuries during the stranding and, while most were healing well, others required ongoing monitoring. However, DOC was conscious of the stress the orca must be under, as it had been a long time away from its pod and mother and to be kept in temporary enclosures.

The baby orca captured the nation's hearts after he stranded from his pod near Plimmerton, north of Wellington on July 11.

Volunteers took turns around the clock to stay with him, first in a temporary pen using fencing and a boat ramp, then in a pool when the weather worsened. He was moved into a sea pen on Thursday night.

The Plimmerton community rallied around Toa's support crew, offering accommodation, essential items and an endless stream of scones.

Whale Rescue said earlier on Friday he was really enjoying being back in the ocean.

"Toa was moved to the sea pen last night and is really enjoying the freedom of being able to move around on his own.

"It's now basically a hands off environment with volunteers encouraging him to swim and make his own decisions about where he wants to be."

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Posted on 24-07-2021 16:36 | By

I totally agree with what has been said, he should have been put back in the ocean he came from straight away, the pod would have found him, but these no good do gooders interfere with nature and have possibly have caused his death he was just a play thing and look at the results sick.


Posted on 24-07-2021 13:04 | By morepork

...Nature is harsh and we are wrong to think we should play God and intervene. It is absolutely certain that his pod would NEVER find him if Humans removed him from the ocean. Well-meaning people did everything they could, but the question has to be asked: Shouldn’t we just let Nature take its course? There are times when our intervention can bring about a good outcome and there are times when it may not. Knowing the difference is key...

I totally agree with Slim Shady!

Posted on 24-07-2021 11:19 | By

.... And at what cost did this come to?


Posted on 24-07-2021 09:33 | By dumbkof2

should have been returned to the sea immediately. his pod would have found him

Sad but disgraceful

Posted on 24-07-2021 09:01 | By

The way the do goody good meddlers were treating it was a disgrace. It was nothing but a toy to play with in their paddling pool. Absolutely appalling totally self serving behaviour.