Baby orca Toa farewelled, taken away for burial by iwi

Stranded baby orca Toa has been taken away for burial by local Māori, the Department of Conservation (DoC) said on Saturday morning.

The six-month-old died Friday night after "rapidly" deteriorating, 12 days after he was found on rocks near Plimmerton, north of Wellington, without his mother.

He'd just been moved back into a sea pen, experts believing he was on the mend. 

"He's going underwater and he's blowing bubbles, he's making long straight swims," Dr Ingrid Visser, founder and principal scientist at the Orca Research Trust, told Newshub on Friday. 

On Saturday morning at dawn he was farewelled by around 70 people at the Plimmerton Boating Club, ahead of being taken for burial by Ngāti Toa Rangatira.

"We wish to especially thank Gayle Carmichael of the Plimmerton Boating Club and all the members of the club, kaumatua and members of Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Dr Ingrid Visser and her team from Whale Rescue," said DoC marine species manager Ian Angus.

"It was not going to be easy to return Toa to his pod which could be anywhere around Aotearoa. It was our goal to return him to his natal pod, but sadly we were unsuccessful in achieving that objective. Nonetheless we can reflect on this and know this huge team of people gave it their best."

No autopsy was performed. Toa suffered injuries to his tail and fins before being rescued.

Concerns had been raised about the cost of looking after him by lobby group the Taxpayers' Union, claiming on Tuesday $10,000 had already been spent on the "natural born killer".