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Tests find endangered dolphin killed by shark

An endangered dolphin found washed up at Port Waikato at the weekend was the victim of a shark attack, a post mortem examination shows.

The Māui or Hector’s dolphin was recovered by a Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger on Sunday and sent to Massey University to determine the cause of death.

The post mortem results show the dolphin had received multiple bite wounds, consistent with shark bites, which occurred prior to death. There was also extensive tissue loss.

“This was a seemingly healthy, mature male dolphin that had been attacked by a shark,” says Kris Ramm, DOC’s manager Marine Species and Threats.

“We don’t know at this stage if it’s a Māui or Hector’s dolphin because this can only be confirmed through DNA testing, which will take another few weeks.

“In this case the dolphin died from natural causes. It is always sad to lose any of these precious dolphins and shows the importance of managing the human-induced threats to this vulnerable population,” Kris Ramm says.

“We manage these threats, which include set nets and trawling, through the Hector’s and Māui dolphin Threat Management Plan. This plan is being reviewed this year and will incorporate any new information and data obtained since the last review in 2012.”

Māui dolphins are classified as Nationally Critical, the highest threat level on the national classification system. The population of Māui dolphins is small - there are estimated to be between 57 and 75 Māui dolphins aged one year and older.

Hector’s dolphins are classified as Nationally Endangered with a population of around 15,000.

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