Keep An Eye Out For Māui This Summer
With a record number of Kiwis purchasing boats and getting out on the water this summer, the Department of Conservation (DOC) is asking people to report any sightings of Hector’s and Māui dolphins.
Hector’s and Māui are the smallest species of dolphin in the world and are found only in New Zealand. They are an important part of our natural heritage, and for the Māui, on the edge of extinction.
“The easiest way to make a report is through the ‘Hector’s Dolphin Sightings’ app,” says Kristina Hillock, Technical Advisor at DOC. “This app allows to you easily find your location, make a report, and upload a video or photo for verification, all in one place.”
Available on the App Store and Google Play, you can also report sightings of other marine mammals, such as whales, other dolphins, and seals. “Any reports are useful,” says Hillock. “The more data we have, the better we can protect our marine species.”
Sightings can also be reported by calling 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) or via the DOC website.
To distinguish Hector’s and Māui from other dolphins, they luckily have a very distinctive rounded dorsal fin shaped like a Mickey Mouse ear. Rounded fin – send it in. They also have small, rounded black flippers and are much smaller than other dolphin species, growing to only about 1.5m long.
Hector’s and Māui dolphins cannot be told apart by sight alone – determining if a dolphin is the Māui subspecies requires genetic analysis. However, the Māui is only found on the west coast of the North Island. Hector’s are mostly found around the South Island. We have had a handful of sightings off the east coast of the North Island as far north as the Coromandel Peninsula, so please be extra vigilant there.
All sightings are verified by an independent marine mammal scientist. DOC then uses the data to better understand the distribution of these rare dolphins. Understanding where these animals are is absolutely critical to protecting them.
“Once we can confirm that they are in a certain area, we can respond with plans for their conservation. For some of these areas we have reported sightings, but not enough to know if there is a resident population or where they’ve come from. Your reports will help us learn more about this species.” says Hillock.
“Taking a photo or a video is the best way to help us verify a sighting.”
DOC is also asking that anyone who spots a stranded or dead Hector’s or Māui to report it immediately via the DOC HOT phone line. An early response means the best opportunity to gather information and determine the cause of death.