New Zealand falls for stranded baby orca, but dilemma looms over ‘life support’

Time could be running out for killer whale named Toa, who has charmed the nation but depends on round-the-clock care to stay alive

When Toa, the orphaned baby orca, sees food coming he sticks his large pink tongue out of his wide gummy mouth in happy anticipation. He gurgles and belches as he hungrily tugs at the specially designed latex teat. Four volunteers in wetsuits and beanies cradle him and coo that he is “a good boy” as he feeds. When he is done, he rolls over, revealing his cream white skin, and nudges a volunteer for a belly rub. If they dare stop, he nudges them again. When he is excited he zooms about his holding pool, playing with the volunteers, and when a large tentacle-like piece of kelp is heaved into the water, he snuggles under it, as though it were a blanket, or the protective weight of his missing mother.

The young calf, thought to be between two and six months old, became stranded in the rocks near Plimmerton, north of Wellington 10 days ago with minor injuries.

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