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New app for reporting Hector's dolphin sightings

New app for reporting Hector's dolphin sightings: Have you seen any?

Locals on the waters and along the beaches in the South Island are being recruited to help fill in knowledge gaps of our enigmatic, endangered little Hector’s dolphins.

A free phone app has been developed by Wellington company ThunderMaps, in conjunction with Gemma McGrath, Whale & Dolphin Conservation consultant. Photos can be uploaded instantly with the app, which is called ‘Hector’s Dolphin Sightings’, free from Google Playand the App Store.

Hector’s dolphins are the smallest dolphins in the world and are unique to our coasts. Little is known about their local movements particularly in the top of the South, Southland and other areas.

“Locals are excellent citizen scientists. You’re out observing the environment every day. With correct species identification, you can provide real scientific data. Hector’s dolphins are very distinctive from other dolphins. There’s nothing pointy about their fins, they’re very smooth and rounded. All other dolphin species have pointed fins. It’s now really fun and easy to report sightings, at the touch of a few buttons,” says McGrath.

ThunderMaps’ Managing Director Clint Van Marrewijk says, "While we usually make apps to help councils in Europe keep their citizens informed and safe, we believe it’s important that we give back and find ways to support New Zealand. These endangered dolphins are certainly a soft spot for us all. We're really passionate about helping in their conservation."

Department of Conservation’s Hannah Hendriks, of the Marine Species team says, “This data will really help us understand what areas are important for these dolphins, at a local level”.

“It would be awesome if you can register on the app now, it’s super easy, so it’s ready to go when you see a Hector’s dolphin. They are more often seen during the summer months, but they could turn up anytime, anywhere. Now’s also a great time to enter any historical sightings you remember and make a test sighting,” says Gemma. “The beauty of this app is that you instantly have access to your own sightings, can edit them, and you can see all the data. With all eyes on the water, chances are you’ll see other species. This app enables you to record other whale and dolphin species too!”

Every dolphin sighting is important. Data will be co-managed with DOC, universities and other scientists to assist in dolphin conservation and local knowledge gaps.

Remember, dolphins are taonga, treasured species and should be treated gently, with respect. If you’re on a boat, approach them slowly, at a no-wake speed, from behind.

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