Saturday, September 22, 2007

Plan to save dolphins

The critically endangered Maui's dolphin could be saved by a captive breeding programme at Napier's Marineland, conservationists believe.

The Conservation Department believes there are only 111 surviving Maui's dolphins, found off the northwest coast of the North Island.

The species is closely related to the threatened Hector's dolphin, which lives mainly around the South Island.

Friends of Marineland spokeswoman Anne Foreman said the Maui's dolphin was the most critically endangered mammal in the world's oceans.

Marineland, which has held captive dolphins for more than 40 years, is now down to one surviving dolphin - of the common dolphin species, which is larger - and has been refused permission to acquire more.

Mrs Foreman suggested that Marineland could be used in a breeding programme for Maui's dolphins captured from the wild.

Two American scientists who specialised in dolphins had told her that in the US dolphins were breeding well and living long lives in marine mammal parks.

However, Otago University marine scientist Steve Dawson, who has studied dolphins for nearly 25 years, rejected the idea.

Dolphins would not breed any faster in captivity than in the wild - and any capture involved risk, he said.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"