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Two Dead Baby Dolphins in One Week

Two Dead Baby Dolphins in One Week

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Click to enlarge

17 November 2006


Two baby dolphins have been found washed up dead in the space of a week, including one critically endangered Maui's dolphin.

With only around a hundred North Island Hector's or Maui's dolphins left in the world, any deaths are of great concern, said Department of Conservation marine mammal advisor, Helen McConnell.

"Initial necropsy reports show this young male dolphin was likely to have died during birth or was stillborn," she said.

The young Maui's dolphin was recovered from Sunset Beach, just to the south of the Waikato River on Monday.

In a separate incident a very young South Island Hector's dolphin was reported on Farewell Spit last Friday. This dolphin was found by a local tour operator who reported it to DOC.

"Because we are trying to understand all of the threats to Hector's dolphins, it's crucial that the public let us know when they come across a dead dolphin," said Ms McConnell.

A necropsy on this dolphin showed that it was very young, and was likely to have been separated from its mother.

It's currently the breeding season for Hector's dolphins, and the dolphins generally come closer to shore to breed and produce their calves. Hector's dolphin calves are about sixty centimetres long, and look like "a rugby ball with fins" according to Ms McConnell.

The Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries are working on a Threat Management Plan to address threats to Hector's dolphins, which is likely to be released in 2007.
Currently, the Ministry of Fisheries is consulting the public on a number of proposed interim measures to protect Hector's dolphins from fisheries based threats in the short term. Those measures which proceed are intended to be in place by Christmas. Submissions close next Thursday 23 November. Further information on this is available from the Ministry of Fisheries website (


Background notes

Hector's dolphins are only found in New Zealand and are considered to be one of the rarest marine dolphins in the world.

Two sub-species exist; these are the South Island Hector's dolphin (numbering c. 7000), and the much rarer Maui's dolphin (population size of only c. 100 animals remaining).

We ask that people take extra care in the water around these dolphins during the breeding season as calves are vulnerable to boat strike and disturbance.

In past years set nets have been responsible for a number of deaths over the summer period. Therefore, we ask that extreme care be taken when fishing by this method. Please do not set nets in areas where dolphins are present and remain vigilant of your net while it's set.

All stranded or dead dolphins are of importance to DOC and should be reported to the DOC Hotline as soon as possible (0800 DOC HOT).

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