This Is the Rarest Dolphin Species in the World

Meet the small, stocky, lovable dolphin species that is currently endangered.

hector's dolphin rareimageBROKER/Shutterstock

Chances are you’re most familiar with the common bottlenose dolphin. They’re the ones you’re most likely to spot offshore, see at the aquarium, and, if you’re lucky, swim with. But they’re not the only dolphins around! In fact, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, 49 species of dolphins and porpoises exist, several of which are on the verge of extinction. One of the extremely rare dolphins is Hector’s dolphin, living in the coastal waters of New Zealand.

These dolphins were named after the man who first examined them in 1869, New Zealand zoologist Sir James Hector. They are known for their stocky, compact bodies and their unusual gray, black, and white coloring. Hector’s dolphins don’t have a protruding beak like bottlenose dolphins do, and their fins are rounder than that of the common bottlenose. (The World Wildlife Foundation affectionately describes their fins as resembling Mickey Mouse’s ears.) Hector’s dolphins are a threatened species and their close relatives, the Maui dolphin, also found in New Zealand, is on the critically endangered list. Learn about 14 more animal species that could disappear in your lifetime.

Organizations including the WWF are working hard to pass legislation to ban gillnetting in the dolphins’ habitat off the coast of New Zealand, as that is the primary killer of Hector’s and Maui dolphins. Dolphins often get tangled up in these fishing nets, which is not the fisherman’s intention, but an unfortunate and devastating consequence of this type of fishing method. You can help by supporting the WWF or adopting a dolphin. Or, if you’re in New Zealand, the country’s Department of Conservation also provides helpful and specific information on how you can help save this rare species—just like these adorable endangered baby animals that are making a comeback!

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Taylor Markarian
Taylor Markarian is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest's Culture, Advice, Travel and Pets beats. She is also a music journalist who has contributed to Alternative Press, Loudwire, Revolver, Kerrang! and more. Markarian is the author of the book, 'From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How It Changed Society', which analyzes the evolution of punk and mental health. She holds a degree in Writing, Literature & Publishing from Emerson College.