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Orca Update – 5pm Friday, 23 July 2021

A reported sighting of an orca pod on the Kāpiti Coast is being investigated by air and sea, while the orca calf remains stable at the Plimmerton Boating Club.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager Ian Angus says two aircraft are searching and a DOC boat is on the water in response to the reported sighting south of Raumati.

“If the boat is able to find a pod, we will take photographs that can be used to identify whether it is the one that the orca calf came from, based on the unique markings on the orca.”

“However, if it is the right pod, we will not be able to reunite the orca calf today, given the limited amount of daylight left and the intricacies of the operation.”

He says search efforts will continue in the morning, to take advantage of a fine weather window currently forecast to last until Sunday.

Any sightings of orca around the country should be reported to DOC HOT 0800 362 468 or via marinemammals@doc.govt.nz. If the pod is in the lower North Island or Marlborough region this would give the best chance of successful reunification.

The focus is still to reunite the orca calf with its pod, which has now been in care for 12 days.

The calf remains stable in the sea pen and is making use of the extra space compared to the temporary pool.

Ian Angus says decisions are being made with the orca calf’s welfare and health as a priority, and a range of scenarios are being planned for.

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

Last Sunday (11 July), the orca calf was stranded on rocks near Plimmerton, north of Wellington. Less than 2.5m long, it is thought to be 2 to 6 months old.

An ongoing operation to care for the orca calf is being led by DOC with support from Orca Research Trust/Whale Rescue Trust, local iwi Ngāti Toa Rangatira, and the local community.

DOC, veterinarians, and Whale Rescue/Orca Research Trust are receiving regular advice from international orca experts and veterinarians – information proving vital as decisions are made.

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