Copyright © 2006-10 Kaipara Branch, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc. All rights reserved

Maui’s dolphin

New Zealand's rarest dolphin, Maui's Dolphin, is found only on the west coast of the North Island and nowhere else in the world.   With an estimated 111 left in the wild, Maui's Dolphin is on the edge of extinction. The population may include fewer than 60 mature animals, with perhaps 25 breeding females. 

Maui's Dolphin is the smallest of the world's 32 dolphin species. Females grow to just 1.7 metres and weigh up to 50 kilograms, while males are slightly smaller.  Maui's and South Island Hector's dolphins look different to other dolphins. They are the only dolphins with a rounded black dorsal fin and a black tail, flippers and eye patches. Other dolphins usually have a sickle-shaped fin.

The dolphins are known to live up to 20 years. Females are not sexually mature until seven to nine years old and produce just one calf every two to four years. This means any population increase is slow.

Maui's Dolphins are generally found close to shore in groups or pods of several dolphins. They are often seen in water less than 20 metres deep but may also range further offshore. Recent studies show the range of Maui's Dolphins has reduced since earlier surveys, with most sightings of dolphins now between the Manukau Harbour and Port Waikato. In the 19th Century Maui's dolphins were found around the northern North Island coastline, from Tuaroa Point in Northland to mid-Bay of Plenty

Fisheries regulations now ban set netting within four nautical miles of the coast from Maunganui Bluff (north of Dargaville) to Pariokariwa Point (north of New Plymouth).

The Department of Conservation, Ministry of Fisheries, university researchers and conservation groups are seeking  to understand the behaviour of the dolphins and  factors affecting their survival. You can play in a part in this research by reporting sightings of Maui's Dolphins.

Maui's Dolphin Presentation

On 8th May 2007 Kirstie Knowles, Forest and Bird's national marine issues campaign advocate, gave a talk on Maui's Dolphin to 50 people at the Waimauku Hall.  

The talk covered:

  1. BulletWhy are they so special?

  2. BulletWhere are they found?

  3. BulletPhysiological and behavioural ecology

  4. BulletConservation Issues – the big picture

  5. BulletWhat is being done?

  6. BulletWhat are the gaps?

  7. BulletWhat is Forest and Bird doing?

  8. BulletHow you can help

Maui's Dolphin: to download the presentation by Forest and Bird's Kirstie Knowles at Waimauku on 8th May here

Forest and Bird’s Maui's Dolphin page: to read Forest and Bird's webpage on the Maui's here

DoC’s Maui's Dolphin page: to view DoC's webpage  on Maui’s Dolphin and download a pamphlet here

Why ban set nets: Set nets kill nearly every fish, bird and marine mammal that swims into them ....more