One of the smallest of the cetaceans, Hector's dolphins are found only around the coast of New Zealand. Primarily, they are found around the South Island, though they may also be commonly seen along the western shore of the North Island. They typically stay in shallower, coastal waters, and may venture into rivers for a short distance. When seen, they usually stay in smaller groups of under ten individuals, though groups up to thirty are not rare. In some ares, they may number 100 or more.
It's not hard to identify the Hector's dolphin with their distinctive markings. The front portion of their body is a grey, while the back portion is darker and sometimes black. Their dorsal fin, which, unlike most dolphins, is rounded, is also dark, along with their rostrum and rounded pectoral fins. There is a lighter patch of grey on their melon, which may have small black streaks. The patch on their melon also has a black outline around it. Their underside is white, and is also outlined with a black line. The white markings extend from their throat to between their pectoral fins, and travels along their underside, arching up on either side of them, looking similar to the markings of an orca.
Like many other dolphins, they will breach, spyhop, lobtail, and ride in the surf of a passing vessel. They seem to like slower moving boats better, occasionally bowriding, and tend to avoid the faster ones. They tend to stay in small groups, though occasionally small groups will come together for a brief period. During this time, Hector's dolphins will become more active about the surface of the water.
Sadly, these dolphins are an endangered species, and are one of the rarest marine dolphins. Their demise came about primarily from drowning in gill nets. In one four year period, from 1984-1988, an estimated 760 Hector's dolphins died due to drowning. Fortunately, the Banks Peninsula on the South Island has been declared a marine sanctuary to prevent more accidental deaths of these cetaceans.
last updated 8/11/00
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