Rescue for abandoned orca calf

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The orca calf which was separated from its pod in the Bay of Plenty.PHOTO/SUPPLIED
The orca calf which was separated from its pod in the Bay of Plenty.PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Experts working to save an abandoned orca calf in Bay of Plenty waters are intervening after attempts to find its family failed.

The Orca Tactical Response Group, are looking at building a sea pen, which would reduce stress to the calf from strong tidal flows.

The young orca, affectionately nicknamed ''Bob'' by locals, had been swimming in Bay waters since July 19, though DOC had not disclosed the location of the calf for fear of attracting onlookers.

Orca experts Dr Ingrid Visser and Jeff Foster tried to feed the calf, but were unsuccessful and the orca had become emaciated.

A respiratory sample and DNA sample have been collected from the orca and results should be available soon.

"At this point, the calf is emaciated and we haven't been able to locate its family pod," said controller John Lucas.

"DOC has a standard operating procedure for marine mammal incidents, which has been created with the best interests of marine mammals at its core.

"The current situation is quite unique and we're fortunate to have the expertise of Jeff Foster and Dr Visser to help us move into the next stages of the response."

Foster previously led the capture of Springer, an orca that became separate from her pod in British Columbia, and returned her back to her pod. He also helped release the animal used in the movie Free Willy.

Iwi were also working on the tactical response team and were lining up resources to build a sea pen with the hope of safely moving the calf.

The tidal flow, weather, available resources and situation of the calf would determine the next steps.

Despite being called Bob by locals, the orca would be given a Maori name in a naming ceremony in the next week.

Tauranga residents were providing accommodation, transport and provisions for the Orca Research Trust team and expert personnel.

Orca Research Trust has asked residents to call the orca hotline if they see any orca.

Relational and commercial boat operators have also been asked via the coastguard's marine radio to report sightings of orca pods in the Bay of Plenty region to the Orca Research Trust by phoning: 0800 SEE ORCA (0800 733 6722).

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