Akaroa cruise boat spots first Hector’s dolphin calf of the season
A Banks Peninsula cruise company has spotted what is believed to be the first Hector’s dolphin calf for the new breeding season.
Black Cat Cruises, which operates in Akaroa Harbour, spotted the calf with its mother on Wednesday.
Skipper Julian Yates said it was wonderful to see the first newborn calf for the season.
‘‘It approached us with its mother while we sat with our engines switched off. We should now start seeing more Hector’s dolphin calves during the next couple of months, along with baby seals who are being born around now and should appear in the next three to four weeks.’’
Department of Conservation (DOC) biodiversity ranger Derek Cox said although the sighting was within the expected timeframe, it was a good sign for the critically-endangered species.
Each year, Hector’s dolphins head into sheltered, shallower waters such as Akaroa Harbour to give birth.
People need to be careful operating boats in these shallow coastal areas as the dolphins are at an increased risk of being injured by them.
‘‘If people are going to have a look at the dolphins then stop, let them come to you, instead of going to chase them.’’
Cox said people should monitor their speed when within 300 metres of the dolphins and always approach them from behind or slightly from the side.
DOC will undertake research in the area over summer to determine if Hector’s dolphin numbers are increasing.
Cox said he was ‘‘fairly confident’’ the population was growing.
‘‘[DOC rangers] will also be up there during summer doing patrols of the Akaroa Harbour and the Akaroa Marine Reserve to make sure people are behaving themselves around marine animals.’’
About 15,000 Hector’s dolphins are believed to live in New Zealand waters, mainly around the South Island.
Hector’s dolphins have a life expectancy of about 20 years. They do not reproduce until they are between seven and nine and only give birth every three to four years, making it difficult for their population to steadily increase.
Hector’s calves are highly dependant on their mothers in early years. They spend about two years with their mother learning how to survive in the ocean.
The first Hector’s dolphin calf this season has been spotted in Akaroa Harbour.