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article imageMaui's dolphin of New Zealand nearly extinct, humans at fault

By Marcus Hondro     May 27, 2015 in Environment
The world's smallest dolphin, the Maui's dolphin, is on the verge of extinction. Some analysts now put the number of surviving Maui's dolphins at under 50, with only 10 of those mature females.
Maui's dolphins threatened
There are 200 of the planet's most prominent cetacean scientists currently meeting at the International Whaling Commission's Scientific Committee in San Diego and they have been presented with new research from New Zealand that paints a bleak picture of the current state of the Maui's dolphin's efforts to survive.
A subspecies of the Hector's dolphin, Maui's dolphins are only found off the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. Two researchers from the country, Dr. Barbara Maas of the NABU International Nature Conservation Foundation and Prof. Liz Slooten of Otago University, presented a study to the conference that suggests the number of Maui's dolphin remaining is between just 43 and 47.
Females of the subspecies are about 1.7 m. long (5.6 feet) and weigh about 50 kg. (110 lbs.), while the males are a little smaller. In the 1970s there were as many as 2,000 of the dolphins; most of their population decline is due to overfishing, being caught up in fishing nets, disease and the destruction of their habitat due to human oil and gas exploration.
Dr. Maas: "wake-up call"
Dr. Maas told the conference she expects, without critical intervention by the New Zealand government, which she says is not now forthcoming, the Maui's dolphin could be extinct in about 15 years.
“These new figures are a loud wake-up call," Dr. Maas said. "New Zealand has to abandons its current stance, which places the interests of the fishing industry above biodiversity conservation, and finally protect the dolphins’ habitat from harmful fishing nets, seismic airgun blasts and oil and gas extraction."
Often living in shallow waters only 20 m. deep, the Maui's got its name from the Maori words 'te Ika-a-Māui', which means "North Island." They are often referred to by the Maori word for dolphin, popoto. Hector's dolphins and Maui's dolphins are the only cetacean's native to New Zealand waters.
The New Zealand government has programs to protect the Maui's dolphin but Dr. Maas and Prof. Slooten maintain those programs are inadequate and will not prevent the mammal's extinction.
More about hector's dolphin, maui's dolphin near extinction, maui's dolphin
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