The orca calf that stranded at Plimmerton in the sea pen.
Image: Leon Berard | DOC

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC has proactively released documents about the 12-day operation to care for an orca calf that stranded on rocks near Wellington in July 2021.

Date:  22 September 2021

Following strong public interest, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has today published a series of documents outlining its response to the orca calf stranding near Plimmerton, north of Wellington, in July this year.

The young, unweaned orca calf, gifted the name ‘Toa’ by tangata whenua Ngāti Toa Rangatira, was cared for by volunteers and monitored by veterinarians for 12 days while attempts were made to locate its pod. Sadly the calf died before its pod could be found.

Lower North Island Director Jack Mace says this was DOC’s longest stranding response for a single animal. “It was a unique and dynamic situation, set against a backdrop of strong community interest and input, deteriorating weather, and close proximity to our capital city,” he says.

“Following the calf’s death, we received numerous requests for information on which experts we consulted, the advice we sought and received, and how we made decisions.

“We are proactively releasing the documents on our website including our scenario planning, vet reports and a breakdown of costs.

“Our goal all along was to care for the calf, find its natal pod and return it. We were also planning to euthanise the calf safely and humanely, should that have proved necessary.

“We want to acknowledge our partners in this response, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, and the input from Whale Rescue and orca researcher Dr Ingrid Visser. We are also thankful for the incredible generosity of the Plimmerton Boating Club for allowing us to use their facilities."

Find the documents on the orca calf stranding response web page


For media enquiries contact:


Back to top