Art imitates life as rare dolphins go missing from WWF installation

Posted on 23 April 2008   |  
With just 111 left, critically endangered Maui's dolphins are rapidly disappearing in the wild.

And now it seems even manmade Maui’s dolphins are threatened with extinction. Six life-size Maui’s have been stolen from WWF’s ‘Stop Their Extinction’ campaign installation in Auckland, nearly wiping them out altogether. Just two dolphins were left.

The installation was set to raise awareness of the need to protect the last 111 Maui’s dolphins from extinction.

With dolphins ‘caught’ on the fence, it symbolised the 110-150 Maui’s dolphins, and their South Island relative Hector’s dolphins, killed in commercial set nets each year, placing the survival of the species at risk.

The irony of even these dolphins disappearing is not lost on the global conservation organisation.

“The installation gave people a clear picture of the reality that fishing nets kill dolphins,” explained WWF’s Executive Director Chris Howe. “As the dolphins deaths are happening out at sea, it can be a case of out of sight, out of mind. By recreating the scene in places you wouldn’t expect to see dolphins, we wanted to bring the issue to people’s attention. We were asking people to then go to our ‘Stop Their Extinction’ campaign website and leave personal messages for the Government, asking them to get off the fence and protect our dolphins.”

The dolphin installation went up on Great North Road, Grey Lynn on Monday. It was set to be moved around the city over the course of the next two weeks. But the dolphins were reported missing on Tuesday night.

WWF is now appealing to Aucklanders to help them find the dolphins: “We are asking all Aucklanders to help us – if you see a life-size 2D Maui’s dolphin, please let us know. We remain hopeful that someone will find them and tell us where they are,” said Chris. "A lot of effort went into making the installation, as we're a charity it's a real shame someone has stolen them, and hindered our work to get the message of conservation out at this critical time."

WWF is asking anyone who sees the life-size 2D Maui’s dolphins to call WWF HQ on 04 471 4288. The dolphins are black, grey and white, and they have a rounded dorsal fin on the back like a ‘micky mouse’ ear. Their other main stand out feature is, they're dolphins.

WWF also gathers information on sightings of real Maui’s dolphins, so if don't spot a manmade Maui's but instead are lucky enough to see a real Maui's dolphin at sea, call WWF’s Maui’s sightings number 0800 4MAUIS to report where you saw it. WWF and DoC use this information to track Maui’s distribution which aids conservation work.

“Clearly the theft of our manmade Maui’s is not nearly as significant as the real Maui’s dolphins, but it is ironic that fate of our installation Maui’s dolphins and the real, living, breathing Maui’s are linked. If you spot our manmade Maui’s please get in touch with us, so we can continue our job of trying to save the dolphins of this country from extinction.”

WWF is asking for people who are concerned about the fate of the real Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins to go to and leave your message for the Prime Minister asking her to protect New Zealand’s dolphins from set net and trawl net fishing.


For further information:
Jenny Riches, WWF-New Zealand Communications Manager
04 471 4288 or 027 4477 158


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