In New Zealand, people are on guard day and night to keep the baby killer whale “Toa” alive, which needs its mother. Volunteers swim off Wellington to find the animal’s mother, while planes make aerial observations. Killer whales are among the critically endangered animals.
A four- to six-month-old male killer whale struck rocks just north of the capital last Sunday and was brought back to life by wildlife officials, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation said.
The 2.5-metre-long animal, called “Toa (warrior in Maori)”, cannot survive alone in the ocean because it has not been weaned.
However, Ian Angus, marine species officer at the Department of Conservation, told AFP, “It’s still very small, this is one of the biggest challenges we have. We have to think about how to get her back to her mother because she especially needs help with feeding.”
Angus said an air and sea search is underway off Wellington to find Toa’s mother, and the public is encouraged to notify authorities when they see a killer whale.
Toa, on the other hand, is currently being held in a makeshift cottage built between two piers in the seaside suburb of Plimmerton. It is tube fed every four hours and is monitored around the clock by volunteers in wetsuits to prevent it from going back to sea.
Angus said he is cautiously optimistic about the young whale’s future, but that there are no facilities in New Zealand that can care for the animal for long, so it is imperative that its mother be found as soon as possible.
“He’s had a pretty stressful experience, but he seems to be in good health now. Killer whales are pretty solid animals. We’re slowly getting him to eat, so there are good signs,” Angus said.
On the other hand, although they are known as killer whales, orcas actually make up the largest dolphin species. Males can grow up to nine meters. They are known for their distinctive black and white markings.
Killer whales are listed as critically endangered in New Zealand, where populations are estimated at 150-200. They are relatively common in Wellington Harbor, where stingray hunting has been observed.