Search for stranded baby orca's family enters third day as Wellington volunteers stay in ocean 24/7

Volunteers stayed in the frigid Wellington ocean with a stranded baby orca all night as the search for its family continues into its third day. 

Dr. Ingrid Visser, from Orca Research Trust, told Newshub the baby orca has received a karakia from the local iwi's kaumātua and has been named.

"It means brave and strong - his name is Toa. I had goosebumps when they told me what his name was so I think it's really fitting."

She says while baby Toa is doing "really well" the search for his family has been unsuccessful, meaning his future is uncertain.

"We're always hopeful but we have to be realistic as well."

Visser told Newshub volunteers were rostered into the ocean with Toa all night, switching out every hour to monitor his vital signs and feed him electrolytes.

"The fire brigade has been amazing and we've had heaters and wooly blankets donated so we're cold, but we're cozy."

She is urging anyone in the Wellington region to report orca sightings to the Department of Conservation (DoC) and to share baby Toa's plight on social media to get the word out about the hunt for his family.

Another pod of orca has been spotted, but they're too far from baby Toa to be his family.

The pod was sighted in Marsden Point on Tuesday but Visser says there is no way Toa's family could have made it so far north so quickly - and if they try and get the pod to adopt Toa, he could be rejected.

The Department of Conservation says the range in which Toa's pod could be is between the Marlborough Sounds and Whanganui - and on Friday afternoon a pod was spotted in Marlborough.

Marine Species Manager Ian Angus says if anyone sees the pod, DoC is interested in the direction of travel, and clear photographs of markings on the back and saddles of the whales.

DoC has a boat searching for Toa's pod, and a local pilot is assisting from the air.