Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Species Manager, Ian Angus, says the transfer of the orca calf back into the sea pen on Thursday night went smoothly.
“As soon as the calf was back in the sea, he started calling and zooming around the pen.”
Water quality tests came back showing there are no issues with contamination and it is safe to swim in.
Ian Angus says plans to increase the search efforts are being pulled together to make the most of a fine weather window which is currently forecasted until Sunday.
“We remain focused on trying to find the orca calf’s pod. Our efforts will be focused on the lower half of the North Island and upper half of the South Island.
“However, we are still calling for people to report any sightings from anywhere in the country, as New Zealand orca can travel up to 160km a day.
“Reports with photos or video are particularly helpful, as we can identify the calf’s pod by the unique markings on the orca.”
Ian Angus says all decisions are still being made based on the health and wellbeing of the calf, and we are planning thoroughly for a range of options.
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 3 m long, it is thought to be three to six 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.