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Hector’s Dolphin

Hector’s dolphin, the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world, lives in only one place.

Hector’s Dolphin Fun Facts

  • Hector’s dolphin is threatened, with only 7,000 left on earth. A subspecies, the Maui dolphin, is critically endangered. Scientists believe there may be as few as 55 left. The animals are often caught in fishing nets, although they are a protected species.
  • This little dolphin grows to about 4 feet long and weighs only 110 pounds, about the size of a large child.
  • It has distinctive black and white markings on its face and a dorsal fin shaped like Mickey Mouse’s ear.
  • Hector’s dolphin lives off the coast of New Zealand and nowhere else on the planet.
  • These dolphins live together in small groups of 2 to 20 dolphins. They slap the water and each other to communicate. They also blow bubbles or spyhop. They’re not as active as other dolphins and do not jump or spin as frequently.
  • Mother dolphins have one baby every four years. The babies stay with their mothers for one to two years.
  • Hector’s dolphins weigh only about 20 pounds when they’re born, which is very small. Killer whale calves, by comparison, weigh 400 pounds at birth.
  • These dolphins never fully fall asleep, but must stay conscious so they keep breathing and coming up for air.


  1. Endangered: an animal who is threatened with extinction
  2. Spyhop: Bobbing the head above the water with the body vertical

Questions and Answers

Why are these dolphins endangered?

Fishing is the main reason. The dolphins often get caught in commercial fishing nets. Tourism, disease, and loss of habitat are also problems. And, Hector’s dolphins don’t have as many babies as other dolphins do because they spend more time raising each one.

Learn More

Watch a video about the Striped dolphins.