Hector's Dolphin

Hector's dolphins are among the rarest species of marine dolphin, with probably less than 5,000 individuals remaining. These dolphins only live in shallow areas around the coast of New Zealand.

Hector's dolphins live in groups of 2 - 8 individuals, though they may occasionally come together in aggregations of as many as 50 individuals. They hunt for fish and squid from the surface to the sea floor, and sometimes they follow the nets of trawlers in search of stray fish.

Like other species in the same genus, Hector's dolphins are characterized by distinctive black and white markings. Their heads, pectoral and dorsal fins and tails are black and their flanks are grey, but their undersides are white. There are also two characteristic fingers of white going from their bellies and along their sides towards their tails - a pattern unique to this species.

The critically endangered population of Hector's Dolphins around New Zealand's North Island has only 100 adults, but is unlikely to be helped by individuals from populations around the South Island because of very low migration rates. The northern population is almost certainly doomed to extinction.

Distribution: New Zealand.

Habitat: Muddy waters.

Food: Fish, crustaceans, squid and invertebrates.

Size: 1.1 - 1.8 m (3.5 - 6 ft); 26 - 86 kg (57 - 190 lb).

Maturity: 6 - 9 years.

Breeding: Every 2 - 3 years.

Life span: 20 years.

Status: Vulnerable.