Top 5 Most Endangered Dolphin Species (and how you can help)

by • October 4, 2013 • Dolphin News, Dolphin Science, GeneralComments Off130529

Although many dolphin species enjoy happy, healthy population numbers, there are a handful of species that are drawing closer to extinction with each passing year. In honor of World Animal Day, here are the top 5 most endangered dolphin species together with links to conservation organizations fighting to save them from extinction.

Maui’s dolphin
Maui’s dolphin lives off the coast of New Zealand, and with just 55 animals alive today, is the most endangered dolphin species. It is considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN. The biggest threat to this small population is entanglement in fishing gear, and conservationists fear that unless immediate action is taken to prevent entanglements, extinction of this species is imminent. More info here.

Hector’s dolphin
Hector’s dolphins inhabit a small range off the coast of New Zealand. They are listed as Endangered by the IUCN, with approximately 7,000 individuals alive today. Like all marine mammal species, they are threatened by vessel traffic and pollution, but are particularly vulnerable to fishing gear entanglement and habitat loss due to coastal development. More info here.

Indus and Ganges River dolphin
The Indus and Ganges River dolphins (once considered two separate species, but now thought to be the same species) are listed as Endangered by the IUCN. These freshwater dolphins live in the rivers of India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. There are fewer than 2,000 Ganges River dolphins, and around 1,000 Indus River dolphins remaining today. The populations have been declining due to human activity, including habitat destruction due to dam construction, fishing gear entanglement, pollution, prey depletion due to over fishing by humans, and deliberate killing for human consumption. More info here and here.

The vaquita is a porpoise species (not a dolphin species), but is considered the world’s most-endangered cetacean (after Maui’s dolphin), and thus warrants mentioning. It is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, with as few as 560 animals alive today. Their numbers have been drastically reduced in recent decades due to entanglement in fishing gear – specifically gillnets. More info here.

The Baiji or Yangtze River dolphin is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, but is considered by most scientists to be functionally extinct. This means that during the last extensive survey undertaken in 2006 to find the Baiji, scientists did not see a single animal. There were over 6,000 Baiji recorded in the 1950s, but their numbers had dropped to around 400 animals by the 1980s. By 1997, there were only 13 Baiji remaining. It is possible that there is still a Baiji out there somewhere, but even if there is, this species has almost no chance of recovering its numbers, and is thus functionally extinct. The major threats to the Baiji were/are due to human activity, including fishing gear entanglement, pollution, and habitat destruction. In a sad testament to the loss of this species, the website of the organization  created to save the Baiji ( is no longer active.

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