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The Dolphins

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Get to know the Hector dolphins

There can be few experiences as rewarding as an encounter with wild dolphins in their natural habitat. Especially when they are amongst the smallest and rarest of the entire world's dolphin species.

We believe that our relationship with the dolphins should be a good partnership; the best partnerships are where the benefits flow both ways and educating people about the dolphins is just one way that we can return the favour to them.

We operate under a strict internal 'dolphin code of conduct' which is a series of guidelines that we have devised to let the dolphins carry out their daily activities in as normal a way as possible. The important - and perhaps most rewarding thing - is that the interaction between humans and dolphins is on their terms and they can always disappear whenever they want.

The Dolphins

How did they get their name?

The dolphins were named in honour of Sir James Hector (1834-1907) who examined the first specimen. Born in Scotland, he was the first director of what is now the Museum of New Zealand and without a doubt the most influential scientist in New Zealand at the time. In 1875, during a geographical survey of NZ he became the first person to collect and examine a Hector’s dolphin specimen, which he initially thought was a species that lived in the north sea. Since the dolphins are a native species they are also known as the 'New Zealand dolphins'. To the Maori the dolphins are known as 'Tutumairekurai', which means 'special ocean dweller'.

What makes this dolphin special?

Of course all dolphins are special; The ancient Greeks considered that a ship with dolphins riding in its wake was a good omen for a smooth voyage. A couple of things really make Hector stand out

Size - The Hector dolphin is the smallest dolphin species in the world. Adult females reach a maximum size of about 1.4m / 4' 7" (48kg/105lb), while adult males are a little smaller at 1.3m/4' 3" (46kg/100lb). A newborn dolphin is just 76cm/2' 4" (8kg/17lb), which is incredibly small for a marine mammal.

Status - The Hector dolphin is amongst the world's rarest dolphins with a total population of 7000. Only the very rare freshwater dolphins of China and India, and the Gulf of California porpoise are known to number fewer. Hector's dolphin is listed as “endangered” by the IUCN. (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources),

Shape and colour - of all the dolphins in New Zealand waters the Hector's dolphin is the only one with a rounded dorsal fin. They also have distinct 3-colour markings earning them the nickname of 'the panda of the seas'.

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