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Cephalorhynchus hectori (South Island Hector’s Dolphins)

There are two subspecies of Hector's Dolphins. Those that live off the coast of the South Island are true Hector's Dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) and those that live off the west coast of the North Island, known as Maui's Dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui). They are the smallest dolphins in the world. They are endemic to New Zealand and are not found anywhere else. There are only 8,000 South Island Hector's Dolphins living in the wild. This makes them one of the rarest dolphins in the world, second only to Maui’s Dolphins. Hector’s Dolphins were given “threatened species status” in December 1999. They face two main human threats. Firstly, because they generally live near land and in shallower waters they have been known to get hit by boats. Secondly, and more deadly, they can “turn off” their sonar when swimming and find themselves caught in gillnets (set nets) and suffocate. Females do not reach sexual maturity until they are around 8 years old, then they only calve every 2-3 years. This means that most females will only have 4-5 calves in their lifetime and the populations of these dolphins’ increases very slowly. Maori names for Hector's Dolphins include: tutumairekurai, aihe, papakanua, upokohue, tukuperu, tūpoupou and hopuhopu (DoC). The Maori watched dolphin movements in order to predict weather.

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Taken on February 17, 2012