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Two Maui's dolphins found dead at Kariotahi Beach

4th December 2006

Two Maui's dolphins found dead at Kariotahi Beach

Two female Maui's dolphins, an adult and a juvenile, were found dead on Kariotahi Beach south of Auckland yesterday evening.

The dolphins were found by local man Patrick Egan and his niece, but strong tides prevented their recovery. They were recovered this morning by Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Ranger Karl McLeod, who was assisted by Mr Egan in relocating the animals.

The dolphins were partly decomposed, and are suspected to have been dead for several days. The younger of the two is approximately 70 cm long.

DOC are unsure what caused the deaths, and the dolphins have been taken to Massey University for autopsies.

With around only 111 remaining, Maui's dolphins are the most critically endangered marine mammal in the world. This is the second blow for the species in less than a month after a newborn male was found dead at Sunset Beach, just to the south of the Waikato River, in November.

"The loss of these dolphins is a real setback to the recovery of this critically endangered species," says Mr McLeod.

"Female dolphins are not sexually mature until they are seven to nine years old, and produce just one calf every two to four years, so any population increase is slow. With current numbers of dolphins so low, any death has a major impact on rebuilding the population."

The recent deaths are the first for over three years. The numbers of deaths have dropped since a set-net ban from Maunganui Bluff (north of Dargaville) to Pariokariwa Point (North of New Plymouth) and the outer Manukau Harbour mouth was implemented by the Ministry of Fisheries in early 2003.

DOC said they rely on members of the public to act as eyes and ears on their behalf.

"We really appreciate the help given by Mr Egan in finding and reporting these animals," says Mr McLeod.

Any sightings of stranded or beach-cast marine mammals should be reported immediately to DOC on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Any illegal set-netting on west coast beaches should be reported to the Ministry of Fisheries on 0800 4 POACHER (0800 4 76224).


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