The baby orca who has stolen the hearts of New Zealanders since being stranded 12 days ago has been farewelled amid karakia and waiata by around 70 people at Plimmerton Boating Club after dying in his sea pen last night.
Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager Ian Angus said the dawn ceremony attended by Ngati Toa, members of the local community, volunteers and DOC staff, was respectful and moving. The baby orca, known as Toa, was then taken for burial by Ngāti Toa Rangatira.
Ian Angus said DOC thanks the many people who tried to save Toa and return him to his natal pod over the past 12 days.
“We wish to especially thank Gayle Carmichael of the Plimmerton Boating Club and all the members of the club, kaumatua and members of Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Dr Ingrid Visser and her team from Whale Rescue.”
He said the number of people involved was staggering with local businesses contributing a wide range of support, veterinarians from Wellington Zoo and HUHA offering their services and a team of more than 40 international and national experts providing their advice over the past 12 days.
“It was not going to be easy to return Toa to his pod which could be anywhere around Aotearoa. It was our goal to return him to his natal pod, but sadly we were unsuccessful in achieving that objective.
“Nonetheless we can reflect on this and know this huge team of people gave it their best.”
DOC staff will now turn their attention to clearing the site and returning it to Plimmerton Boating Club.