A dolphin belonging to the country's rarest species has been found dead in Taranaki.
The Department of Conservation confirmed the dead Maui's dolphin, which is understood to have been found by a member of the public earlier this week on a beach near Pungarehu, south of New Plymouth.
The species are critically endangered with a shrinking population of which only 55 of the dolphins are believed to be left in the country.
Maui's dolphins have grey, white and black markings with a short snout and rounded dorsal fin, are predominantly found in the West Coast of the North Island and have a life expectancy of 20-30 years.
Maui are now only found on the west coast of the North Island. While they look identical to the Hectors dolphins, there are some genetic differences. Both species are endangered, have declining populations and face similar threats.
The dead dolphin is understood to have been collected by the Department of Conservation and a necropsy is expected to be carried out by Massey University experts.
The coastline from Dargaville to Taranaki has a set net ban and sanctuary status, and a proposal is underway to extend this to help protect the dolphins.
Submissions shave closed and a decision is due at the end of next month.