Jun 15
Photo of Hector's dolphin pod

Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori)

Species: Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: Hector’s dolphin produces high-frequency clicks, but unlike many other dolphins it does not whistle.

Found only in New Zealand, Hector’s dolphin is one of the smallest and rarest of all marine dolphins. This species is generally light grey with darker stripes, and has a black tail, flippers and rounded dorsal fin. Females tend to be slightly larger than males. Hector’s dolphin usually occurs in small groups of up to ten individuals, but these may sometimes join together into larger aggregations. This small dolphin is found in shallow coastal waters where it feeds on fish and squid. It has one of the most restricted distributions of any cetacean, occurring mostly around the South Island of New Zealand, with a subspecies, Maui’s dolphin, found only off the west coast of the North Island.

The major threat to Hector’s dolphin comes from accidental capture in gillnets. Its coastal habitat also makes it vulnerable to other human impacts, including pollution, boat strikes and habitat modification. The South Island population of Hector’s dolphin numbers just over 7,000 individuals, but Maui’s dolphin is down to only around 55 adults, and is classified as Critically Endangered. The New Zealand government has created two protected areas for Hector’s dolphin, where the use of nets is restricted, and a management plan is in place which outlines measures to reduce the threats to this tiny cetacean.

 

Find out more about Hector’s dolphin at the New Zealand Department of Conservation, WWF New Zealand and the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust.

See images and videos of Hector’s dolphin on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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