Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Health concerns for orca calf

Veterinarians are closely monitoring the health of an orca calf that was found stranded on rocks near Plimmerton, north of Wellington over a week ago.

In a statement released this morning, the Department of Conservation (DOC) says the calf remains in a stable condition but onsite veterinarians are continuing to monitor “some health concerns”.

DOC Marine Species Manager, Ian Angus says some of the injuries sustained by the calf during the stranding were healing well, while others require ongoing monitoring.

“The calf did display some short-term signs of discomfort in his gut, likely associated with trying to get the delicate balance of feeding requirements right,” Mr Angus said.

He said orca don’t typically wean until one to two years of age.

“The young orca has now been in our care for over a week.”

“It remains in the temporary pool with staff and volunteers keeping an eye on the weather, with wind and swells forecast. A move to the sea pen is not likely today, but this will be reassessed as conditions allow.

“The incoming rough weather means it is unlikely the team will be able to have boats out following up pod sightings later today,” he said.

Any sightings of orca around the country should be reported to DOC HOT 0800 362 468 or via marinemammals@doc.govt.nz. Pods in the lower north island and Marlborough region give the best chance of release.

“Our focus at the moment is on finding the specific pod the orca calf has come from. We will try to verify the pod based on the markings of the orca, so any photographs people can provide with reported sightings will help immensely,” Mr Angus said.

“We are still planning for a range of scenarios. We are optimistic that we may find the pod, and the orca’s health is still stable, but we are also being realistic as we consider the ongoing welfare of this animal – that has to be our number one concern.”

Veterinarians are onsite day and night and continue to carry out health checks on the animal, he said.

The site remains closed to the public to reduce stress for the orca calf.

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