The great thing about having a dolphin stuffed animal, is that you never have to leave your house ‘in search’ of the real thing. With a dolphin stuffed animal to call your own, you are given the daily pleasure of seeing its friendly, smiling face whenever you want to.
One might not think that dolphins are an endangered species, given it's not the animal that makes it into the news with disturbing stories of its near extinction. However, there is a species of dolphin – Maui dolphin's – which could disappear altogether unless more steps are taken to protect it.
Maui dolphins are considered to be the rarest marine animal in the world with just 111 individuals left. They can only be found living along the west coast of North Island in New Zealand. Thanks to fishing nets and the dolphins inability to detect the mesh [of the nets], over the last few decades, their population has been dying off following their numbered entanglements and drownings inside those very same nets. The Maui dolphins South Island cousin – Hector's dolphins – are also in danger, given their population numbers have dropped from 26,000 in the 1970s to 7, 270 today.
The WWF (World Wildlife Foundation), has been actively pressuring the New Zealand government since 2002 to take away the threats facing both dolphin species. After years of delays the government finally decided to act and as of October 1, 2008, net and trawl fishing were banned in many more of the ranges Maui and Hector's dolphins can be found in. While these new measures mean fewer dolphins will die as the result of getting caught in fishing nets, it is still not enough for the dolphin populations to recover. According to scientists, at the most, the Hector's dolphin population will just remain as is with the new protections in place.
To ensure outright survival and remove the risk of extinction altogether, net fishing needs to be completely banned in the dolphins’ range. With the current protections, Maui dolphins will still not be protected inside harbors or in the southern parts of their range and along the west coast, Hector's dolphins will still have to deal with both trawl fishing and set nets. While the Marine Programme Manager for WWF-New Zealand is thrilled the government has taken the protection measures they have, it is only a first step in trying to stave off all out extinction.
Wouldn't it be lovely to purchase a dolphin stuffed animal, knowing the real thing did not face so much uncertainty in the wild? If only the dolphins that roam the oceans could live the same storied existence as a dolphin stuffed animal, we could all sleep a little better at night not having to worry about what humans are doing to the planet.