Hector's Dolphin - What a Name!

Introduction & Physical Appearance

Who is Hector and why are his dolphins so special? The Hector's dolphin was named after Sir James Hector, who was the curator of the first Colonial Museum in Wellington (now named Te Papa). Sir James Hector examined the first dolphin specimen that was found.. Hector’s dolphins are the smallest and rarest marine dolphins in the world. They have distinct black facial markings, short stocky bodies and a dorsal fin shaped like a Mickey Mouse ear. There is a subspecies of Hector’s dolphin known as Maui’s dolphin that is critically endangered and estimated to have a population of only 55! They are found only in the shallow coastal waters along western shores of New Zealand’s North Island.

Characteristics of Hector's Dolphins

  • Population: Estimated at 7000

  • Scientific Name: Cephalorhynchus Hectori

  • Weight: Up to 110 Pounds

  • Length: 4 Feet

  • Habitat: Ocean


Maximum age is at least 22 years and sexual maturity is reached at about 6 to 9 years of age. Females typically produce single calves every 2 to 4 years, and calves remain with their mothers for 1 to 2 years, although 2 years is more common.

Threats and Risks

Hector’s (and Maui’s) dolphins only live in New Zealand’s shallow coastal waters. They are both at risk of becoming extinct. Living close to shore is a problem for the dolphins.

Bycatch—becoming tangled in recreational and commercial gill and trawl nets—is the biggest threat they face.  

Gillnets, for example, are made of a fine mesh that dolphins are unable to detect underwater and they accidentally swim into them and become caught.

Other threats include being struck by boats, pollution in their habitat, coastal development and seabed mining.

What is the WWF Doing to Help?

"WWF works to end gill net use and trawling in Hector’s and Maui’s dolphin habitat. After the 2012 International Whaling Commission meeting, New Zealand agreed to ban gillnets in a portion of Maui’s dolphin habitat. This is a positive step, but a ban throughout the dolphin’s entire range is needed to ensure their survival. WWF is urging New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to protect the last remaining Maui’s dolphins by prohibiting dangerous fishing gear from their habitat, safeguarding the region from sand mining and the threat of oil and gas exploration, and establishing a protected ocean corridor." -WWF

Fun Facts (Sourced From https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/marine-mammals/dolphins/hectors-dolphin/)

Hector’s dolphins are known to live to a maximum of about 20 years.

Like other dolphins, Hector’s use echolocation to find their food. They send out high frequency ‘clicks’ that bounce off surrounding objects and fish, giving the dolphins a detailed picture of their surroundings. This sonar is not used all the time, which may be one of the reasons why the dolphins get caught in nets.

Females reach sexual maturity between seven to nine years of age. They produce just one calf every two to three years, making population increase a very slow process.

Most females only have four or five calves in a lifetime. Calving usually occurs between November and mid-February, and calves stay with their mothers for up to two years.

Traditionally, Māori watched dolphin movements to predict the weather.

Sourced From/More Information:

Images & Article 1: https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/hector-s-dolphin

Article 2: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/hectors-dolphin

Article 3: https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/marine-mammals/dolphins/hectors-dolphin/

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All