Maui’s dolphins – which are classified as critically endangered – have seen their numbers halve in the last seven years alone, as dozens have been caught in fishing nets.
Only found on the west coast of New Zealand, there may be as little as 20 breeding females left, a new study has found.
A new study carried out by University of Auckland, Oregon State University and the New Zealand Department of Conservation – using DNA samples – found the number of dolphins aged more than a year had plummeted from 111 when the last survey was carried out in 2004.
Dr Barbara Maas, a Cambridge University-trained zoologist who was not involved in the research, but has organised a petition to save the Maui’s which has gathered 10,000 signatures, told the Mail: ‘To have just 55 of these wonderful creatures left is beyond even our worst estimates.
‘Their extinction is really imminent now, within a few years. New Zealand is a civilised country, which markets itself as an unspoilt paradise. They must act before it is too late.’