Hector's Dolphin

Hector's Dolphin

name = Hector's Dolphin
status = EN
trend = unknown
status_system = iucn2.3

image_width = 227px
image_caption = Hector's Dolphin at Kaikoura, New Zealand

image2_width = 250px
image2_caption = Size comparison against an average human
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
subclassis = Eutheria
ordo = Cetacea
subordo = Odontoceti
familia = Delphinidae
genus = "Cephalorhynchus"
species = "C. hectori"
binomial = "Cephalorhynchus hectori"
binomial_authority = Van Beneden, 1881

range_map_width = 200px
range_map_caption = Hector's Dolphin range
Hector's Dolphin or White-headed Dolphin ("Cephalorhynchus hectori") is the most well-known of the four dolphins in the genus "Cephalorhynchus". At about 1.4 m in length, it is one of the smallest cetaceans.__TOC__Hector’s dolphin was named after Sir James Hector (1834-1907). He was the curator of the Colonial Museum in Wellington (now the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa). He examined the first specimen found of the dolphin.

Maui's dolphin/Popoto ("Cephalorhynchus hectori maui") is a subspecies of Hector's Dolphins found off the northwest coast of New Zealand's North Island. It is the most endangered subspecies of all marine mammals (other cetaceans with a similarly perilous conservation status inhabit rivers and estuaries only). There are approximately 110 Maui's dolphins in the wild, with only 25 of those estimated to be breeding females. The Maui's dolphin is critically endangered due to being caught in fishing nets and being wounded by boat. Adult Maui's dolphins are generally 1.2 to 1.6 m long and weigh up to 50 kg. They have a rounded dorsal (upper) fin and have white undersides and grey sides. Maui's dolphins take short (90 second) dives to feed on small fish and crustaceans on the ocean floor.

Physical description

is narrow. At birth the animal weighs about 9 kg and grows to about 40 to 60 kg at adulthood. They live for about 20 years.

Hector's dolphins live in fluid groups of about two to eight in number. They are active animals, readily bow-riding and playing with seaweed. When leaping from the sea, individuals will often land on their side, creating a loud splash (their vertical and horizontal dives are much less noisy).

Population and distribution

Hector's dolphins are endemic to the coastal regions of New Zealand. There are two known main populations, one on each side of the South Island. The two populations are believed to be largely cut off from one another by deep water at Cook Strait and at the south-west tip of the South Island. The species seems unwilling or unable to cross areas of deep water. The total population was estimated to be around 3,500 in the mid-1980s. A more recent survey suggested a total population of approximately 7,250 individuals (see conservation below). A notable population exists at Akaroa, near Christchurch, New Zealand.

Hector's Dolphins are sighted always less than 10 km off-shore in summer and only slightly further afield in winter. Occasional sightings were reported from Australia and Malaysia, but these were mis-identifications.

There are about 100 individuals in the Maui subspecies.

During the last ice age the South and North Islands were joined. Together with the deep ocean of the Cook Strait, this could be the reason for the distribution, of the Hector Dolphin on the east coast of the South Island, and the Maui Dolphin on the west coast of the North Island, however scientists are not yet sure.


Entanglement in gillnets is a very significant threat to the Hector's dolphin species. From 1970 such entanglements, which lead to certain death, are estimated to be responsible for reducing the population. In 1988 a marine reserve was created around Banks Peninsula to prohibit gillnet activity in the area. This has stemmed the rate of population decrease, but an increase in numbers has not yet been recorded. Other threats, such as collisions with boat propellers, may also be hampering a return to stability.

In March 2004, New Zealand's Department of Conservation began testing a system for satellite tracking cetaceans by tagging three Hector's Dolphins. If these movements can be tracked successfully, the system will be extended to track the highly endangered Maui subspecies.

On 15 November 2007, the World Wide Fund for Nature launched an online petition asking Helen Clark to introduce emergency measures to protect the Hector's and Maui dolphins. [ [http://www.passport.panda.org/campaigns/closed.cfm?uCampaignId=1561&uLangId=1 Tell New Zealand to protect endangered dolphins] , World Wildlife Fund Passport Panda website, retrieved 11:10 a.m. Saturday, 15 March 2008.]

In December 2007, Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton announced that the decision on restrictions on set-netting and trawling would delayed due to the large number (2,475) of submissions received on the draft plan. [ [http://www.stuff.co.nz/4323169a7693.html Dolphins' future awash with submissions] , The Press, Friday, 14 December 2007, retrieved 15 March 2008.]


*" Baker, Alan N., Smith, Adam H. and Franz. B. Pichler, 2002. Geographical variation in Hector's dolphin: recognition of a new species of Cephalorhynchus hectori. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand Vol. 32 No. 4 pp 713-727. (Original description of Maui's dolphin).
* Database entry includes justification for why this species is endangered.
* "National Audubon Society: Guide to Marine Mammals of the World" ISBN 0-375-41141-0
* "Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals" ISBN 0-12-551340-2
* "Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises", Mark Carwardine 1995 ISBN 0-7513-2781-6
* " [http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/page.aspx?id=33266 Facts about Maui's dolphin] " Department of Conservation - Several Images & listed as 'critically endangered' - Retrieved 2007-05-08.
* " [http://www.fish.govt.nz/en-nz/Environmental/Hectors+Dolphins.htm Hector's Dolphins] ", New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries - Retrieved 2007-02-09.
* " [http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/Marine/hectors/factsheet.asp Hector's Dolphin - Factsheet] ", Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc - Retrieved 2007-02-09.

External links

* [http://www.wdcs.org Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3523337.stm BBC News report on satellite tracking technology]
* [http://www.wwf.org.nz/dolphin/ WWF Maui's Dolphin Home Page: The worlds rarest marine dolphin]
* [http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/Marine/hectorsdolphin.asp Hector's dolphin information]

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