Rescue efforts have stepped up for a lonely orca calf stranded in the Bay of Plenty, shifting it to a temporary pen on the coast.
The calf is only a baby, thought to be around six to 12 months old.
Without its pod for 20 days, and refusing food from humans, its health is going downhill, experts from the Orca Research Trust say.
It's now been penned up on the coast for its own protection - but not for long.
"The land-based structure is a temporary holding area that gets the maki (orca) out of the strong tidal flows in its current location," iwi representative Carlton Bidois says.
"We're still focused on the next step of the operation, which is the creation of a sea-pen in the water."
Experts Jeff Foster and Dr Ingris Visser are working along with local iwi in Tauranga and the Department of Conservation to figure out the best options for the mammal.
DOC operations manager Jeff Milham says the calf's age makes it an "unprecedented situation".
"Given the calf's current level of emaciation, it's unlikely to hydrate quickly even if we could unite it with a pod."
Dr Visser says they don't yet know how long the calf will spend in the land-based pool.
"The intensive care in the pool here, we hope will only be 24 hours, maybe it will extend a little bit longer than that," says Dr Visser.
"But it's actually going to be up to him - it's his decision whether he can recover physically fast enough."
The ultimate goal remains to unite the baby with its family and with reports of a pod being spotted in the area, rescuers hope it could happen soon.
The Orca Research Trust is seeking donations to help further research.