Found only in New Zealand waters, Hector's dolphins are some of the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world. This small, strikingly colored and very social dolphin is threatened by human activities and is prone to becoming tangled in gillnets and drowning. Through our research, we help guide policymakers as they develop conservation strategies to preserve these endangered animals and educate the public about this rare and special dolphin.
Less than 8,000 Hector’s dolphins—split between two subspecies and four subpopulations—remain alive today. It is likely that before humans came to New Zealand, there were many more. Besides gillnet entanglement, other potential threats include pollution, habitat modification, disturbance by tour boats and mortality caused by boat strikes.
Through our Hector’s dolphin research program, we investigate how these rare dolphins respond to boaters and swimmers, use their habitat and interact with fishing gear. We also conduct ongoing population and health assessments.
Our research is helping save the Hector’s dolphin from extinction by reducing the threats they face in their daily lives. We have designed alarms to prevent dolphins from becoming tangled in fishing nets and continue to study how dolphins interact with boats and swimmers.