Who doesn’t love a good dolphin right!? I’ve never had the experience of swimming with one but it has definitely been one of my dreams. Many people wouldn’t expect dolphins to be endangered but once again one of the many precious animals we love on this Earth are slowly dying and being killed off.
This specific species of dolphin, as known as cephalorhynchus hector, only survive with around 700 individuals left around the world. These dolphins are the smallest and rarest among the marine dolphin living in the oceans today. They are found swimming around in coastal waters and truly are small, measuring to only be about 4 feet long and 110 pounds! That’s lighter than most college kids!
Hector dolphins have a very distinct look consisting of black facial markings with short stocky bodies, and dorsal fins that oddly have a familiar shape to Mickey Mouse ears. In my opinion the first time I saw a picture of the hector dolphin, it reminded me of a whale, but a much much smaller version. There is actually a subspecies of the Hector dolphin that is even more endangered. These animals are known to be critically endangered. It is found that there is only a population of 55 of these dolphins left and are only found now in the shallow waters off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island! Imagine that! One of our precious animals is so close to extinction and people wouldn’t even know when it would completely disappear.
Going back to Hecctor dolphins, they usually live in groups of up to 5 individuals and do travel temporarily. The young of these dolphins are those known to play with eachother; swimming through seaweed, playing ‘games’, and even blowing bubbles! They are very social and even communicate to each other emitting sounds that resemble clicks. The courtship between two hector dolphins is quite elaborate with chasing each other and belly displays and flips. Although in the past there were more sub-populations of this species but to this day there are four genetically distinct populations.
There are a number of threats that affect the survival of the hector dolphin. These factors include chemical pollutions of the waters, habitat modifications, and trafficking. The main threat however is from bycatching or even disease. It has even been found that a third to a half of the population has decreased since 1970 because of gill net entanglement. Who knows how much damage bycatching will cause the population of not just Hector dolphins but many other marine species. Specific chemicals such as PCBs, DDTs, and dioxins from humans have been found to affect the reproduction rates of these dolphins. Although we all love to watch dolphins and want to go out to view them, there are current studies discovering that boat disturbances whether they be recreational or tourism can affect the lifestyle of these dolphins.
And for another week, I’m here sharing with you yet another precious animal of the world and how we as humans are helping in the process of its disappearance. My hope is that one day, more people will realize the major affect we as humans are making in the world. Some are absolutely good but others, like the extinction of our animals is definitely not one of them.