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5 Extremely Rare Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

Updated on June 14, 2012

Think you know who’s who in the world of cetaceans? Think again. Even though whale watching is fairly common these days, some sea critters are so elusive and endangered that they’re rarely spotted. Here are 5 of the rarest whales, dolphins and porpoises.

North Atlantic Right Whale

How many are left: 400

Biggest threats: Vessel strikes and entanglement in fixed fishing gear

Habitat: Northern Atlantic Ocean

Other interesting tidbits: Right whales were so-named because whalers thought they were the "right" whale to hunt. They continued to float long after they were killed, and were almost hunted to extinction by the late 19th century.

Hector’s Dolphin

How many are left: 7400

Biggest threats: Gillnetting, trawling and other damaging fishing methods

Habitat: New Zealand

Other interesting tidbits: Maui’s Dolphins, a subspecies of Hector’s Dolphins, are the world’s rarest marine dolphin. There are only 100 left in the wild!

Shepherd’s Beaked Whale (Tasman Whale)

How many are left: No population estimates exist. There have been only four confirmed sightings.

Biggest threats: Unknown. There are no reports of this species being hunted or killed accidentally by humans, but current threats may include entanglement in fishing nets that have been set, lost or discarded.

Habitat: Deep, offshore waters where sighting conditions can be difficult

Other interesting tidbits: Little is known about Tasman Whales, but we do know that adults can reach lengths of 6 metres (20 ft) to 7.1 metres (23 ft) and weigh about 2.32 to 3.48 tons

Ganges River Dolphin

How many are left: 1800

Biggest threats: Pollution and dam construction

Habitat: Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems, mainly in secondary tributaries

Other interesting tidbits: The Ganges River Dolphin is one of only four freshwater dolphins in the world. Also, their eyes lack lenses, rendering them essentially blind. The dolphin's vision has probably degenerated because of the poor visibility of the waters in the Ganges River.


How many are left: 250

Biggest threats: Gillnet entanglement

Habitat: The northern region of the Gulf of California

Other interesting tidbits: The Vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, is the most endangered cetacean in the world.


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