Tears are flowing across New Zealand after a young orca, which was rescued this month, died.
In a short message, Dr Ingrid Visser who had been caring for Toa said the “brave wee orca” passed away at 8:13pm today.
“I wish you could have had a chance to meet him in the previous two weeks as he was a special fellow,” she wrote.
Allie Burns who had been volunteering as a carer and monitoring his health, said his breathing became laboured earlier this evening.
Through tears she said around 40 members of the Plimmerton community, who have taken care of the young orca, have been left heartbroken.
“Everyone is down here, it’s really nice, but sad if you know what I mean,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
“All of the community are here and people have raced down from Wellington.
“He’s lying here on the trailer at the moment, but he looks really good. Calm.”
Orcas sighted in area earlier today
The heartbreaking news came after Toa was placed back into the ocean, after a stint in a tank to avoid dangerous weather.
Orcas had spotted in the area earlier today, and the Department of Conservation had been hopeful he could be returned to his pod in the coming days.
Following the news, the Department of Conservation's Ian Angus released a statement, saying the community had "thrown everything" they could at saving him.
“We were always aware that the longer he was in captivity, away from his mother, the more likely it was that his health would deteriorate," he said.
“Toa passed quickly, surrounded by love with his last days made as comfortable as possible.
“Throughout this amazing effort, we’ve all been united in wanting to do the best for Toa. Finding and reuniting him with his pod was still our goal as we headed into the weekend.
“This calf had captured hearts, and no one wanted to believe that he didn’t have a fighting chance.
“We will continue to treat Toa with the dignity and respect he deserves. Appropriate arrangements are being made with Ngāti Toa.
“We’d like to thank everyone who has volunteered their time and efforts to saving this orca calf and everyone who has followed his journey."
How a community came together to care for a stranded orca
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