The government of New Zealand has prohibited tourists from swimming with bottlenose dolphins as population numbers plunge. The move was made in an effort to save the struggling species from extinction.
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DoC) released research that indicated how human interaction was interfering with “the population’s resting and feeding behavior”. As the research put it, humans were actually “loving the dolphins too much.”
Tour operations in the North Island’s Bay of Islands region are affected by the ban. The area is known to be popular amongst tourists for its sunny weather and golden beaches. While swimmers are no longer allowed to engage with bottlenose dolphins, interaction with different dolphin species in other parts of New Zealand are still permitted.
Bottlenose dolphins are a particular dolphin species that prefer swimming in coastal regions. This behavior makes them vulnerable to human activity, The Guardian reports. The species’ population in the Bay of Islands have seen a drastic decline since the year 1990 as they have decreased in number by 66% says the DoC.
The region is regularly visited by a group of 19 bottlenose dolphins today. The recently released report indicated a mortality rate of 75% among dolphin calves. This is the highest rate seen in New Zealand, internationally and even in captivity.
Along with the prohibition of tourist swims with the species, the DoC has limited interactions between tour operators and dolphins for only a period of 20 minutes at a time. The period is reduced from 30 minutes and tour operator are only allowed to visit either morning or afternoon. This provides the bottlenose dolphins time to be left alone and to further minimize human engagement.