Concerns for the welfare of stranded baby orca Toa are growing after more than ten days stranded from his pod.
SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Arnja Dale says the SPCA is "extremely concerned" about the orca.
"It's been ten days now… he's incredibly young and vulnerable and he's experienced considerable stress and trauma since the stranding," she told Newshub.
She says baby orca are completely reliant on their mothers and pods for crucial life skills.
"He's got body lacerations, he's been separated from his mother and pod, he's being tube fed and having to undergo assessments. The vets are doing an amazing job keeping him stable but it's very stressful."
She says the entire operation is "very stressful" for everyone involved, and she hopes the Department of Conservation (DoC) is holding Toa's welfare paramount.
DoC marine species manager Ian Angus all their decisions are driven by concern for Toa's welfare.
"The welfare and health of orca is at the centre of all our decision making," he said.
"We have been listening to some of the commentaries, getting expert opinions from New Zealand and overseas to see what's best for the orca."
Dr. Dale says seeking expert advice is best practice for DoC - but they're in the "unenviable position" of having to make difficult decisions.
"Every hour is critical for Toa and makes it harder for a good outcome. We know he's too young to survive in the wild and animal welfare has demonstrated we are unable to meet the welfare needs or provide a good life for orca in captivity due to their really complex social physical and behavioural needs," she told Newshub.
Toa was stranded on 11 July in Plimmerton Beach, and DoC has been searching for his pod ever since. So far, no credible options have been found.