A stranded orca that was rescued at the Kaipara Harbour almost eight years ago has been spotted swimming in Dunedin Harbour.
The Orca Research Trust reported that Koru and his presumed mother Nicky were seen travelling with at least four other orca on Saturday, inside Dunedin Harbour and heading north.
Koru was recognisable by a shot in his dorsal fin that caused it to collapse and look like a koru, the trust said in a Facebook post.
He was named for the shape. It was not known how he was shot.
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Nicky had a large nick in the trailing edge of her fin, which was also how she acquired her name.
Former Green Party MP Gareth Hughes, his wife Meghan and their two children were amongst those who were able to get close to the orca, in their friend’s boat.
Meghan, the keeper and caretaker of Quarantine Island in the harbour, said the experience was amazing.
The orca were in different groups, and those onboard the boat were surprised when three suddenly appeared next to the boat and then dived underneath it.
She spotted some orca only metres from people who were on the beach at Aramoana.
“They were incredible. They are such beautiful creatures. We are really lucky,” she said.
They had travelled with Port to Port Cruises owner/operator Rachel McGregor, who began receiving reports of the orca early in the morning.
“I’ve been working on the harbour about 17 years but I’ve never seen orca that far up the harbour,” she said.
It was extra special to learn later that Koru had earlier been saved.
“People put in a lot of effort but you never actually hear what’s happened later. There’s been so many years in between – it’s so amazing. Everyone is excited,” she said.
A 2013 report in the NZ Herald said commercial fishermen found and tended to Koru while he was stuck fast on a sandbank.
Tutukaka orca expert Ingrid Visser and Orca Research Trust volunteers stayed with Koru until the tide had risen enough for the orca to free itself.
Koru had a few small bite marks where his companions had tried to free him, but that was nothing unusual, she said.