An orphaned baby killer whale that captivated the hearts of people across New Zealand was dismissed in a special ceremony and taken to burial, ending a desperate mission to reunite her with her pod.
The young calf, named Toa, which means brave or strong in Maori, was thought to be between two and six months old, and was stranded on the rocks north of Wellington two weeks ago with minor injuries.
Since then, countless volunteers braved winter storms and cold water to keep him alive (by bottle feeding him a special formula in a hastily built pool) while others searched for his family group.
However, Toa’s condition spoke quickly on Friday night and he died within an hour. Greg Norris, the father of teenager Ben Norris, who was the first person to find Toa, told Stuff it was a “really emotional” night.
Ian Angus, a marine species manager for the Department of Conservation (DoC), who has been leading rescue attempts, said: “Toa passed quickly, surrounded by love with his last days as comfortable as possible.
He added, “It wasn’t going to be easy to return Toa to his capsule that could be anywhere around Aotearoa. Our goal was to return him to his native herd, but sadly we were unable to achieve that goal. However, we can reflect on this and know that this huge team of people gave their best ”.
On Saturday, dozens of people attended a dawn ceremony at the Plimmerton Boating Club before the venue took away Toa’s body for burial. iwi (tribe) Ngāti Toa Rangatira. The authorities decided that Toa’s body would be treated with dignity, opting for an autopsy to understand the exact cause of death.
Angus thanked the volunteers and staff, saying, “It’s been a long two weeks, sometimes working in cold water, windy and humid weather. The people here at the site have been fantastic, the people supporting the effort to find the group behind the scenes throughout New Zealand have been fantastic.
“The department can do nothing more than thank everyone for the support and effort they have put in. People here are very sad, we all wanted a positive result. “
Toa was stranded after he strayed from his pack and got too close to the beach when a wave tossed him on his back and then onto the rocks, according to 17-year-old Ben Norris, one of the first to raise the alarm.
Hey said things: “He was on his back, and then he was on the beach, wagging his tail, which took him higher and higher. The rocks were cutting him and the sound was like nothing you can imagine.” His screams hurt my ears. “
Since then, a cast of hundreds, including the DoC, dozens of whale experts, and locals iwi, they’ve been looking after Toa as the nationwide search for his capsule continued.
Brianna Norris, 21, the sister of Plimmerton resident Ben, formed a special relationship with the calf. She said last week: “He is very loving and very gentle … One day with him would have been enough.”