The Maui’s dolphin, found only in New Zealand, is the world’s rarest marine dolphin. Unfortunately, it’s facing extinction unless we take action now to protect them. Just how rare are they? There is estimated to be only 55 Maui’s left in the entire world.

Although protection measures were announced in June 2012, there is still dangerous fishing activity being allowed to continue in areas of the Maui’s environment, which is off New Zealand’s west coast. The survival of this endangered species of dolphin is so incredibly dire, so much that the World Wildlife Fund has been urging the New Zealand government to listen to scientists and provide full protection of the coastline Maui’s dolphins inhabit.

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“Right now the International Whaling Commission (IWC) scientific committee is considering papers that show that the limited protections announced last year by government don’t do enough and will not stop Maui’s from going extinct,” said New Zealand Executive Director Chris Howe.

A paper submitted by WWF mentions gaps in the approach and protection of Maui’s, that extended protection by the government was due to some sightings of the dolphin but not all. There are still areas left unprotected where equally credible Maui’s sightings have been documented.

“We are down to the last 55 dolphins, so we are calling on our political leaders to let them know it’s time to take action to save these precious animals,” said Howe. “At the rate we are going the only place future generations will be able to see Maui’s is in museums.”

Careless fishing practices in the Maui’s habitat, and trawling and gillnetting are direct human related actions contributing to the disappearance, deaths, and soon extinction, of this dolphin. According to the WWF, scientists estimate over 95 percent of unnatural Maui’s deaths are caused by entanglement and drowning in gillnet or trawl fishing.

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Forty years ago, the Maui’s population was around 1,800, and in 2005, the population had dropped to 111. With only about 55 adult Maui’s dolphins left, the New Zealand Department of Conservation makes it clear we can only afford to lose one dolphin every 10 to 23 years without impacting the population’s ability to recover. This is not good.

Take action now! Help spread the word to save the Maui’s dolphin by signing and sharing the WWF New Zealand’s petition, The Last 55, to support the protection of this critically endangered species of marine dolphin!

Image source: Silvia Scarli/WWF

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