Rare dolphin calves spotted near Akaroa
The appearance of rare dolphin calves in Akaroa Harbour is "great news" for the endangered species, a local tourism operator says.
Black Cat Cruises managing director Paul Bingham said Hector's dolphin calves had been spotted swimming with their mothers in the harbour this spring.
Hector's dolphins are one of the smallest marine dolphins in the world and are classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union.
"Because of their coastal habitat and slow reproductive rate they are particularly vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear, especially gill nets, so we never fail to get enthusiastic when calves are spotted," Bingham said.
Guests on harbour cruises could clearly see stripes on the calves from when they were folded up inside their mother's womb, he said.
Female dolphins usually give birth to one calf every two or three years and the calves are able to swim as soon as they are born.
The calves are about 50 to 60cm long at birth and stay close to their mothers, who provide them with milk and protection, for their first year of life.
Hector's dolphins are only found off the coast of New Zealand. They are among the most endangered dolphins in the world, with just over 7000 believed to be left.