Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Growing concerns for orca calf

LOST: The orca calf which was separated from its pod in the Bay of Plenty. Photo / Supplied
LOST: The orca calf which was separated from its pod in the Bay of Plenty. Photo / Supplied

There are growing concerns an orca calf could starve after being separated from its family about two weeks ago.

The community, experts and the Department of Conservation are working together to address concerns about the orca calf, nick-named Bob by locals, which has been nuzzling on a buoy off the Bay of Plenty.

The calf has been resting there since it was separated from its family.

The Herald understands residents did not think enough was being done to find the pod or feed the whale.

A DoC spokesman told the Herald unsuccessful attempts by Orca Research Trust researcher Dr Ingrid Visser and visiting international expert Jeff Foster had been made to feed the calf after the trust reported it was in a state of emaciation.

"Iwi, DoC and the Orca Rescue Trust are currently evaluating further intervention techniques aimed to support the whale's wellbeing. The safety of the public and responders is paramount to any further intervention, as is the wellbeing of the whale," the spokesman said.

DoC did not comment about when further intervention would happen.

The period between 17 and 21 days away from the calf's mother was critical.

Orca Research Trust principal scientist Dr Visser said: "Everybody is frustrated but we understand that processes have to be made and we are in full consultation with iwi and DoC ... but I can tell you officially that we have been in a lot of meetings with DoC and they are listening. So we just have to go through all of the procedures and have to make sure all the processes are in place so if we do an intervention all the boxes are ticked."

Dr Visser said the ultimate outcome would be reuniting the orca, estimated to between 7 and 12 months old, with its family.

An intervention plan had been drawn up, but not yet actioned, which would address the issue of starvation.

The New Zealand orca expert had been with the whale yesterday said it was still alert and aware of his surroundings.

"We have a number of moving parts in the plan and when they all fall into place we are hoping for the best outcome possible to get him home with his family."

Residents have providing accommodation, transport and meals for the Orca Research Trust team and expert personnel bought in to assist with this task.

The exact location of the orca is not being revealed to protect it from onlookers.

Recreational and commercial boat operators are being asked via the marine radio to report sightings of orca pods in the Bay of Plenty region to the Ora Research Trust by phoning 0800 SEE ORCA/0800 733 6722.

[NZME-NZG-NZC]

-NZH

- NZ Herald

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