A portable pool will be brought on site as contingency planning continues for bad weather at the location north of Wellington where a stranded orca calf is being cared for by DOC and Whale Rescue staff.
The orca calf – believed to be between four and six months old – stranded on rocks at Plimmerton on Sunday afternoon. Volunteers from Whale Rescue/Orca Research Trust, the Department of Conservation (DOC), local iwi Ngati Toa Rangatira and the community are working together in a complex operation to keep the calf healthy and stable.
Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager, Ian Angus says the temporary holding pool is being arranged as a safety measure with expected sea swells of up to 4m tomorrow, and potential gale force winds.
“This is a back-up plan for if we feel the sea has got too rough and the calf’s welfare, and the welfare of volunteers on site, may be compromised,” Mr Angus said.
He said rough seas and high winds mean there is a risk the calf will be buffeted into some of the structures currently forming the animal’s temporary pen.
“We’ll only move the animal into the holding pool if we have to – putting the animal into the pool would only be a temporary measure and is certainly not a long-term solution.”
“Shifting the animal to the pool would also mitigate a health and safety issue for volunteers who will be in the water caring for the calf. The pool can hold 32,000 litres of seawater.”
Mr Angus re-emphasised that the welfare of the animal remained at the core of all decision making as the operation continued. Vets have done their health assessments and the animal remains stable and was fed again this afternoon, he said.
He says contingency planning for a range of scenarios continues. There have been no further reported sightings today of orca pods.
Anyone who sights orca pods off the lower North Island’s west coast – particularly between Wellington and Taranaki – is urged to provide as much information as possible to DOC, via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0800 DOC HOT. Essential information includes location of the pod, direction of travel of the animals, and photographs or videos which clearly show the saddle/back markings of the animals and their dorsal fins.