Common Dolphins

In Kaikōura, the common dolphins are not as common as the name suggests. They mainly come to visit our coastline in the summer months. During winter they can be found further north in Aotearoa/New Zealand but when the waters starts to warm up they expand their feeding grounds and make their way down here to Kaikōura. They can be found in the north island such as the Hauraki Gulf all year around.

They are a widely distributed dolphin around the world and are generally divided into two groups, the long-beaked common dolphin and the one we encounter here, the short-beaked common dolphin.

Common dolphins AllanCronin

Photo Credit: Allan Cronin

When we encounter common dolphins in Kaikōura, they usually travel together with the dusky dolphins. We can see larger pods of only common dolphins at times but it is rarer to see. They are known to travel in super pods where hundreds of dolphins travel together!

They can often be seen travelling alongside the dusky dolphins and they are known to be quite promiscuous. Fun fact: The two different species can interbreed and create a dusky/common dolphin hybrid. The offspring will not be fertile and can therefore not create a new species.

Common dolphin1 Allan

Photo Credit: Allan Cronin

These dolphins can be recognized by their pale yellow patches on their sides and can grow to 2.4 metres in length, weighing about 100 kilograms. They have a bottlenose shaped beaked which distinguishes them from the dusky dolphin. Their lifespan reaches about 20 years.

The last dolphin
Currently, there are no captive dolphins anywhere in the Aotearoa/New Zealand. There has only been one captive dolphin facility which was Marineland, located in Napier. The last dolphin in captivity was held here and it was a common dolphin who went by the name of Kelly. She died in 2008 and no dolphin took her place, making this the last captive dolphin in New Zealand.

The only way to encounter dolphins is in the wild, where they belong, surrounded by their friends and family.

Further reading:
DOC – common dolphin

Project Jonah

NZ Geo, The last dolphin


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