Akaroa cruise boat spots first Hec­tor’s dol­phin calf of the sea­son

The Press - - News - Jonathan Guild­ford

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.

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