Kiwis to the rescue: The orca bub of Porirua


It’s World Orca Day and currently, Aotearoa is seeing its very own rescue mission around a stranded orca bub who, as a consequence, lost his family pod.

The calf, which was born sometime last summer, washed up on rocks near Wellington on Sunday. Luckily, first responders of marine mammal rescue teams acted quickly so it could be saved. For now.

While this is great news, the little orca needs its mum to survive. At six months, juvenile orcas are still weaned. It’s been transferred to a make-shift sea pen and is cared for 24/7 by national experts. It receives nutrients and lots of attention from its sitters, however, finding its family will determine whether there will be a Happy End. For this, teams are working tirelessly to look for any signs of orcas in the Wellington and Marlborough area and ask anyone who spots a pod of killer whales to stay with the pod for as long as possible, report the location of encounter and the direction of the pod’s travel to the Department of Conservation. Videos and photographs will also help, particularly of dorsal fins and saddle patches. Currently, there’s evidence of a pod at the Kapiti coast. Yet it is still unknown whether this is the one that lost the bub.

As New Zealand does not have any marine mammal rescue facilities, if the attempts of finding the family pod fail, the little orca is likely to be euthanised. In the wild, whale and dolphin calves usually have a 50% chance of survival – even when they’re not separated from their families. It also has to be noted that there’s a chance of habituation to humans if the care has to be extended which is another factor that may compromise the long-term survival of the little orca. How the calf is going to be reunited with its family, is a different challenge.

While the public, understandably, feels the urge to help, letting the team continuing the rehabilitation efforts is the best way to support the rescue mission.

The little one was, unofficially, named Toa – it means 'courage' in Te Reo.