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Maui's Dolphin

Facing imminent extinction.

Recent studies by Department of Conservation estimate that the population of Maui’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) dropped to only 55 breeding animals left in 2011.


The Maui’s dolphin is listed internationally as ‘critically endangered’ which means that it faces eminent extinction in the near future. 

Some interesting facts.

  • Maui’s dolphin is the world’s rarest and smallest dolphin and endemic to New Zealand. They are only found on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

  • Maui’s dolphin are a separate sub-species of Hector’s dolphin.

  • They are most easily recognized by their round dorsal fin and have distinctive grey, white and black markings and a short snout.

  • Generally they are found close to shore in groups or pods of several dolphins.

  • Maui’s use echolocation to navigate, find food and communicate. High frequency clicks bounce off surrounding objects and gives the dolphins a detailed picture of their surroundings.

  • Females grow to 1.7 metres long and weigh up to 50 kg. Males are slightly smaller and lighter. The dolphins are known to live up to 20 years.

  • Maui’s dolphin are very slow breeding. Female Maui’s dolphins are not sexually mature until they are 7 – 9 years of age. They then produce one calf every 2 – 4 years.


from Dr Liz Slooten

"In short, there are only 111 Maui’s dolphins left. This population has been seriously depleted by entanglements in fishing gear. Gillnets in particular, used by both commercial and amateur fishers".

Read more in this update from Dr Liz Slooten, University of Otago.

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