New Zealand’s action to save Maui dolphins

The Maui Dolphins are found only in the West Coast of New Zealand and no where else in the world. They are one of the smallest dolphin’s subspecies globally. There are only 63 Maui dolphins left in the world.

What are recent New Zealand plans to save the Dolphins?

The New Zealand Government along with World Wide Fund and some few fishing companies is to develop a drone that is capable of finding and tracking Maui dolphins using Artificial Intelligence.

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

The Artificial Intelligence based system will distinguish Maui dolphins with other species with more than 90% accuracy.

Reasons for declining population

  • The Maui Dolphins 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 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.

IUCN

The International Union of Conservation of Nature has listed the Maui Dolphins under Critically Endangered species.

Toxoplasmosis

The Toxoplasmosis disease is currently the biggest threat of Maui 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.

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