WWF asks public to report Maui’s dolphin sightings
WWF asks public to report sightings of rare Maui’s dolphins this summer
WWF is asking communities along the west coast of the North Island to get in touch if they are lucky enough to see rare Maui's dolphins amongst the waves this summer.
WWF's appeal to the public comes just weeks after a Maui's was sighted by Waitara resident off the Taranaki coast, causing excitement amongst the local community as Maui's have not been regularly seen in this region for many years.
"If you see a dolphin along the west coast and you think it's a Maui's, we would love to hear from you," says WWF-New Zealand's Executive Director Chris Howe. "You can recognise them from their rounded dorsal fin, which is shaped like a mickey mouse ear. The dolphins range closer in to shore during summer, so this is the time when you're most likely to spot them. We are appealing to all kiwis heading to the beaches of the west coast this summer to keep a look out for Maui's and to report any sightings. As there are now so few Maui's, public sightings provide very valuable information about their location from season to season."
The information reported to WWF helps in the conservation of the species, by adding to scientific information about where the dolphins' range and where protection measures should be in place.
You can report your sighting by calling WWF's Maui's sighting hotline, 0800 4MAUIS (0800 462847) or going to wwf.org.nz to fill out an online reporting form.
Scientists estimate there used to be 1000 Maui's dolphins along the west coast of the North Island prior to the 1970s when fishing with monofilament nets was introduced. Just 111 Maui's dolphins are estimated to survive. The species' numbers are now so low even one death due to human causes is significant for its long term survival.
WWF's Chris Howe said that the majority of sightings reported come from people out on the water - boaties, recreational fishers and surfers in particular. "We're very grateful to everyone who takes the time to report their sightings to us because this information is incredibly valuable for the conservation of this rare species. If you have the chance, please take a photo as this helps us confirm whether the animal is a Maui's or a different species.
"It is possible to stop the extinction of Maui's dolphins, and the support of the communities along the west coast of the North Island is very important in the conservation effort," he said.
If you see a Maui's dolphin please contact WWF by calling the Maui's sightings number - 0800 4 MAUIS (0800 462847) - or by going to wwf.org.nz to report your sighting online.