5 Extremely Rare Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises
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.
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.