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Hector’s Dolphin: Is It Endangered?

The Hector’s dolphin is a member of the oceanic dolphin family that is protected by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). hector’s dolphins can be found in all four latitudes, although they prefer tropical seas. Hector’s are very sociable animals that form strong bonds with other members of their gang.

Hector’s Dolphin Fact: Hector is one of the most popular names for baby boys born in Scotland over the past decade—and you’ll notice it comes up time and time again in hector’s dolphin research!

Hector’s dolphins are a member of the oceanic dolphin family

Hector's dolphins above water surface

The hector’s dolphin is a member of the oceanic dolphin family. The hectors are widespread, living mostly in tropical seas, and are members of the oceanic dolphin family.

The hector’s dolphins are highly sociable creatures that form strong attachments with other members of their group. Because there aren’t many left in the wild, hector’s dolphin is endangered and should be protected.

The restricted range of their habitat, together with the deterioration of environmental conditions in areas they inhabit, makes them vulnerable. Hector’s dolphins are found throughout the world but prefer tropical seas. Hector’s dolphins are highly sociable creatures that form close relationships with other group members.

Ties between members of different species are especially tight among Hector’s dolphins.

They are highly sociable creatures that form strong friendships with other group members and they also have a special bond with other group members.

Hector’s dolphins can be found in all four hemispheres, but prefer tropical seas

Hector’s dolphins can be found in all four corners of the globe, but they prefer tropical seas.

Hector’s dolphins talk to each other to communicate. When they mate, they only do it with one person in their group of the opposite sex. They nurse their calf for 2 years but at 4 months old, the calf can go live with another pod.

Hector’s dolphin facts

Close up of Hector's Dolphin

Hector’s Dolphins dwell in the eastern Pacific and Indian Oceans. Hector’s Dolphins are typically found near the current and will frequently travel against it. Hector’s Dolphins go considerably deeper underwater than any other dolphin species to feed on shoals of fish.

Hector’s Dolphin is endangered because humans continue to catch fish near their habitat. Because people keep fishing around these dolphin habitats and actually catch Hector’s dolphin.

These types of dolphins are extremely endangered and need help right now.

  • Status: Endangered 
  • Known as: Hector’s Dolphin, White-headed dolphin, New Zealand Dolphin
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: 7,000 to 8,000.


Hector's Dolphin swimming at sea

Hector’s dolphin is one of the smallest cetaceans and New Zealand’s only endemic cetacean. This charming little dolphin is only 1.4 meters long at the most, with the males being slightly smaller than the females. At its heaviest, this dolphin does not weigh more than 50 kilograms.

Hector’s dolphins do not have the beak usually associated with dolphins in general but have a shorter face, making them look more ‘whale-like.

The back of this dolphin is light grey or white, with white extending down the front of the face. The throat and undersides are white, while black patches surround the eye region and extend to the rounded flippers. The round dorsal fin and the tail are also black.

Examination of one of the dolphins by Sir James Hector in the last part of the 19th Century resulted in the species being named after him. Hector’s dolphins eat fish and squid and will take whatever fish is available. They also hunt for crabs and flounder on the ocean bottom.

The dolphins hunt and live in shallow waters and tend to stay underwater for only about 90 seconds. The use of echolocation enables the dolphins to find their prey with relative ease.

Hector’s dolphins assemble in small groups of 2 to 10 animals and appear to communicate with one another by clicks, unlike the whistles usually used by most dolphins. These dolphins have a low reproductive rate, with a calf being born only once every 2 to 4 years.

The calves remain under their mother’s protection until they are nearly fully grown and live independently. Young dolphins are especially playful and will use seaweed as a toy or blow bubbles for amusement. All ages of these dolphins often swim and leap around boats.

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Hector’s dolphin is found only in the shallow waters around New Zealand’s South Island. A subspecies of Hector’s dolphin, Maui’s dolphin, is even more endangered, with only about 110 individuals left. This member of the family lives around North Island.

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Hector's Dolphin blowing out bubbles

By keeping fish away from Hector’s Dolphin habitat, we can help Hector’s Dolphins to survive. We may also attempt to reduce pollution levels in the seas so that Hector’s Dolphins have a good living environment.

To survive, Hector’s dolphins require our assistance, and we should try to preserve this magnificent species.


The nets of commercial and casual fishers are the greatest threats to Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins. Set nets are often placed out to catch fish in a relatively small area and trap the dolphins that drown in them.

Gill-nets used by commercial fisheries pose even more danger and are directly responsible for the near extinction of Maui’s dolphins. The monofilament used to make the nets is so thin that the dolphins’ echolocation cannot detect it. Although a few dolphins can free themselves from the net, about 150 drown every year.

Tourists can also disturb the dolphins, and they are, of course, subject to the detrimental effects of pollution. Sharks also prey on Hector’s dolphins.

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Conservation efforts

 NGOs, such as the World Wildlife Fund, are working to ban gill-nets in all parts of the Hector’s and Maui’s dolphin ranges.

Gill-nets have been banned completely around North Island and are only allowed to be set 4 miles offshore around South Island. Sanctuaries for marine mammals have also been established around both islands.

See Related: Environmental Organizations in South America


Hector's dolphin swimming in the ocean

Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that works to conserve Hector’s Dolphin? Then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.


Hector’s Dolphins live in the shallow seas near New Zealand. They have black circles around their eyes and white skin that goes all the way to their flippers.

Hector’s Dolphins will eat anything, but they prefer to eat crabs because they can find them with echolocation.

Hector’s Dolphins have a low reproductive rate and they are almost on the verge of extinction. There is not enough space for them. They assemble in small groups and communicate with one another using clicks, instead of whistles that most dolphins use.

Hector’s Dolphins reproduce slowly, but when they are young they stay with their mothers. Gill-nets and sharks have killed them in the past. Now there is a ban on gill-nets and sanctuaries have been established to protect them from sharks.

Hector’s dolphins have white skin with black markings on their eye region and extending to rounded flippers, a roundish dorsal fin, and a small tail.

Hector’s dolphins need our help. They are disappearing, but they are not in danger of dying out entirely. If we want Hector’s Dolphins to stay alive and not become endangered, we need to try and conserve them.


What is Hector’s Dolphin?

Hector’s dolphin is a type of dolphin that lives in the water near New Zealand. They eat squid and cuttlefish and many other things. Hector’s dolphins do not have a dorsal fin or flippers. They have two slits that they use for feeding in deep water, and they are endangered. 1407 is the number left alive from September 2011 by the IUCN Red List classification system.

Is Hector’s Dolphins endangered?

Yes, Hector’s Dolphins are endangered. Hector’s dolphin is the most endangered of all marine mammals.
Hector’s Dolphins are found on the coast of New Zealand and nowhere else in the world. Hector’s dolphins live at sea, but only swim into shallow coastal waters to feed and breed. Hector’s dolphins spend up to half their time at sea and can travel 150 km in a day. Hector’s Dolphins can be found in shallow water near the sea grass beds and reefs around the coastal waters of New Zealand.

Do Hector’s Dolphin like to eat crabs?

The named species of dolphin, the Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori), love to munch on crabs. The Hector’s dolphins have been observed consuming a wide range of fish and squid, but they also consume crabs from time to time. Because Hector’s dolphins are shy and avoid human interaction, it is difficult to learn about the Hector’s dolphin diet.

Why are Hector’s Dolphins becoming endangered?

Hector’s dolphin is an endangered species. It is often called the rarest and most elusive of our planet’s dolphins, so it has many unique features not seen in other dolphins, such as a long bushy beak and teardrop-shaped dorsal fin. Hector’s Dolphins are only found near New Zealand; they live around deep water and the strong currents near the shore. They eat small fish and squid, and can hold their breath for up to 7 minutes when they dive down to catch their prey; Hector’s dolphins also do not have many predators, but the main one is humans.

The average length of Hector’s dolphins is approximately four feet, making them one of the world’s biggest members of the oceanic family that includes Spinner Dolphins, Indo Pacific Striped Dolphins, and Ribbon Seals – they can reach up to five feet long. Hector’s dolphins are very social animals.

Hector’s Dolphins usually swim in groups of 50 or less. They are preyed on by sharks and orca whales. The dolphin is named Hector because the scientist who found them was Hector McDonald, who went to New Zealand to study the crayfish industry for government department of fisheries.

He became fascinated by dolphins and named them after himself. He thought up the name “Hector” because these dolphins came from where he was born. Hector’s are one of the most common kind of dolphin in New Zealand, but it is hard to see them because they spend most of their time below 4 meters (13 feet).

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