The first Hector’s dolphin calf of the season has been spotted in Akaroa Harbour by a very excited group of tourists on the Akaroa Dolphins cruise. ‘The dolphin who proudly showed off her new calf to the onlookers, was sighted just inside Timu Timu Head. The calf was only around a few days old, which can be seen by their foetal folds.’ said Akaroa Dolphins Skipper, Ian Bain. Later in the day the Akaroa Dolphins crew sighted another two new borns.
Akaroa Dolphins has been offering passengers the opportunity to view the rare Hector’s dolphins for over 12 years, and owner Hugh Waghorn commented that over this time they have seen a small increase in numbers.
The Hector’s dolphins are classed as one of the most endangered dolphins in the world, with numbers believed to be around 7000 to 8000 individuals. Hector’s dolphins are known to live to approximately 20-22 years, with females having one calf every two to three years, and typically only four or five in a lifetime. This making the population increase a very slow process.
The coast of New Zealand is the only area in the world where the Hector’s dolphins are found. Banks Peninsula is an ideal habitat for Hector’s dolphins with its many bays and harbours. In 1988 a marine mammal sanctuary was created around the coast of Banks Peninsula, covering an area of 1140 sq km. It extended from Sumner Heads to the Rakaia River and out to a distance of four nautical miles. In 2008, after it was recognised that the dolphins needed further protection, the sanctuary boundaries were extended from Waipara River to the Rakaia River and a further 12 nautical miles were added.
‘It is always a wonderful experience to see the new calves and to be able to share it with others. Being so rare, it is great to see the next generation coming through’, said Hugh Waghorn.