Autopsy reveals Maui dolphin's cause of death

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

There's relief that a Maui's dolphin found on a beach in Northland died of natural causes.

While an autopsy on the dolphin continues, conservation Minister Nick Smith says it was an elderly female.

"The information would have been very gloomy in the event that it had been caused by human carelessness or some criminal act. That's not the circumstances here."

Dr Smith says ensuring dead dolphins such as this one can be analysed by scientists is important, because it teaches us more about the species.

He says given the population of the Maui's dolphins is so fragile, it's important all fatalities are reported.

"When you've only got 55 of these left, they're the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world, we need every possible piece of information we can get our hands on so we can try and understand the species."

The World Wildlife Fund's Milena Palka says if the cause of death was human activity, it could have been catastrophic for the remaining population of just 55 adults.

"These dolphins are slow to breed they produce one calf every two to three years at best and that equates to about a 1.8 per cent population growth if all human-induced deaths would be removed."

She says more restrictions need to be placed on fishing near the Maui's habitat, along the North Island's west coast.

"And if we're not going to be really precautionary with the protection that we afford them then they're not really going to stand a chance given there's so few of them left."

- Newstalk ZB

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