Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Blood poisoning resulting from birthing complications is the likely cause of death for a suspected Māui dolphin that washed up on a beach north of Raglan.

Date:  05 October 2018

A necropsy by Massey University’s veterinary pathology specialists was conducted to determine the cause of death on Wednesday and found that the dolphin was pregnant. It was apparent that the calf had died several days before the mother, causing the blood poisoning.

Further testing is needed to determine whether the dolphin is a Māui or Hectors dolphin, in any case this is a significant concern that a female dolphin of breeding age has died. Māui dolphin are the rarest and smallest of the world’s 32 dolphin species and a recent estimate of the population indicated that there are approximately 57 to 75 individuals over one year of age.

Pathology reports noted that “the differing degrees of decomposition between the mother and fetus in this case tell us that the fetus died at least several days before the female did. The most likely cause of death for the mother is blood poisoning due to the decomposing fetus”.

Marine Technical Advisor Kristina Hillock says “Pathologists were unable to determine whether the male fetus died as a result of congenital abnormalities, disease or due to a difficult birth.  Either way, the mother was unable to give birth due to the abnormal position of the fetus, resulting in the mother dying of blood poisoning.”

A man discovered the dolphin on the beach on Sunday 30 September, around 20 km north of Raglan and reported the sighting to DOC. Two DOC rangers who responded to the report, assessed the site, took measurements and photos of the dolphin before removing it from the area.

Remains will be delivered to local iwi once all testing has been completed.


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