Māui dolphin or popoto are found only in the West Coast of New Zealand. They are one of the smallest dolphin’s subspecies in the world. There are only 63 Māui dolphins left in the world.

Recent plans by New Zealand Govt to save the Dolphins

The Government along with World Wide Fund (WWF) and some few fishing companies is to develop a drone that is capable of finding and tracking Māui dolphins using Artificial Intelligence.

It will collect data on dolphins’ habitat, behaviour and population size. The data can then be used to inform the Govt policy changes to stop the decline in the population. It was developed by a non-profit organisation MAUI63.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) based system will distinguish Maui dolphins with other species with more than 90 per cent accuracy.

Reasons for declining Māui population

  • They are threatened by commercial fisheries. This includes trawling and set-netting.
  • They are affected by diseases such as Brucellosis and toxoplasmosis.
  • Low food availability
  • Climate Change
  • In the year 2014, the Government of New Zealand opened 3,000 square kilometres of the West Coast for oil drilling. This is the main habitat of Maui dolphins.

International Union of Conservation of Nature

The IUCN has listed the Maui Dolphins under Critically Endangered species.

Toxoplasmosis

This disease is currently the biggest threat of Māui Dolphins. It is caused by a parasite found in cat faeces.

The parasite survives in weathering condition and is virtually indestructible. As it enters into water, it is ingested by fish. It then reaches the dolphins when they feed on fish. The parasite causes organ failure and it attacks the brain.

Action of New Zealand to save Maui dolphins Action of New Zealand to save Maui dolphins