A young orca found abandoned by its family off the Bay of Plenty coast has been moved into a temporary structure where it's receiving care from marine mammal experts.
The calf has spent 20 days without it's pod and its health has been deteriorating.
The decision to move the young whale to a temporary land-based holding area was made following an assessment by the Orca Research Trust.
Experts Jeff Foster and Dr Ingrid Visser concluded the calf needed to be removed from its current location, based on its declining health.
The structure will protect the orca from strong tidal flows while the tactical team focus on the next step of creating a sea-pen in the water, said iwi representative Carlton Bidois.
Department of Conservation Operations Manager Jeff Milham says given the calf’s current level of emaciation, it’s unlikely to hydrate quickly even if they could unite it with a pod.
"This is an unprecedented situation given the age of the calf. We are working with marine mammal experts and iwi to evaluate all the possible options," he said.
The location of the temporary holding structure, and the sea-pen are being kept confidential to avoid unnecessary interactions with the whale. An exclusion zone has been set up.
The coastguard, the harbour master, local councils and the community have supported the operation.