"Toa passed quickly, surrounded by love, with his last days made as comfortable as possible." Such is the somber conclusion of a story out of New Zealand, where conservationists tried and failed to save the life of a baby orca found separated from his mother. The New Zealand Herald reports two teens found the baby stranded on rocks near Wellington two weeks ago, and the discovery launched what the BBC calls a "nationwide search" for his mother. Thought to be between two and six months, Toa—Maori for "warrior"—was kept in a portable pool and fed six times a day as people searched for his pod by land and air despite winter storms and cold water, reports the Guardian.
The hope was to either find Toa's mother or have him scooped up by another pod. "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," said Ian Angus with the Department of Conservation. His health wasn't strong to begin with. One of the teens who happened upon Toa recalls, "He was on his back, and then he was on the beach, wiggling his tail which was driving him further and further up. The rocks were cutting him up and the sound was like nothing you can imagine. His screams were hurting my ears." Stuff reports the orca suffered injuries to his pectoral fins and tail fluke. Toa's deterioration accelerated on Friday, and the orca died within an hour. The Guardian reports a farewell ceremony was held at dawn Saturday prior to Toa being buried. (Read more orca stories.)