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Threatened dolphin research proposals rejected

Release From Green Party

Multiple applications for government funding to research ways to save the threatened North Island Hector's dolphin - New Zealand's rarest - have been rejected, the Green Party revealed today.

The Greens first revealed two weeks ago that scientists expected the dolphin, with probably less than one hundred individuals left, to become extinct.

Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons said she had subsequently discovered that "for the last five years DoC Auckland has repeatedly proposed an aerial survey to estimate the population size and they have been turned down every time".

"For the last two years Auckland University has proposed using genetic techniques to estimate the population size and learn more about dolphin behaviour. They've been turned down, too," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"One non-scientific aerial survey has been conducted, but that's it. Official disregard for the plight of the North Island Hector's dolphin makes a mockery of our anti-whaling stance. Why should other countries take us seriously trying to protect whales when we are doing nothing to protect our own unique dolphin, which is rarer than any whale?"

Hector's Dolphin is considered the world's rarest marine dolphin.

Ms Fitzsimons said the Hector's dolphin was an example of how the Conservation Department didn't have the funds to do its job.

"The little funds DoC has for the Hector's Dolphin has gone to sustaining the South Island subspecies. The North Island researchers have been able to contiune only thanks to private organisations like Worldwide Fund for Nature, and they have even been forced to fund some research out of their own pockets."

Because they tend to live in shallow water around river mouths, Hector's dolphins are also highly susceptible to contamination from land-based pollution.

"The Hector's dolphin is an example of the threat to our wildlfe, as well as ourselves, from our toxic economy," Ms Fitzsimons said.

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