Two rare sea creatures — with distinctive Mickey Mouse-like fins — were seen off the northern coast of New Zealand. It’s the area’s third sighting in 60 years, according to wildlife officials.
The pair of dolphins were spotted in the Firth of Thames, a bay on the country’s North Island, by a member of the public on Oct. 19, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation said in an Oct. 20 news release.
Wildlife officials identified the animals as Hector’s dolphins.
Hector’s dolphins are “one of the world’s smallest dolphins,” reaching about 5 feet in length, according to an article from the department. There are only about 15,000 of these dolphins that are over 1 year old, and they mostly live around New Zealand’s South Island.
The dolphin species is recognized by its unique dorsal fin that “looks like one of Mickey Mouse’s ears,” wildlife officials said.
A representative photo shows a group of Hector’s dolphins. The dolphins are a light gray-white with darker gray-black coloring on their face, flippers, dorsal fin and tails.
The recent sighting of two Hector’s dolphins in the Firth of Thames is the area’s third in 60 years, officials said. A small group of dolphins was also sighted in 2020 off Hot Water Beach in Coromandel and a lone dolphin was seen several times in 2022 between Mahurangi Harbour and Doubtless Bay.
The location of the sighting makes it “particularly important,” Kristina Hillock, a marine species advisor to the department, said in the news release.
Wildlife officials encouraged people to report any possible sightings of Hector’s dolphins but maintain a “respectful distance,” Hillock said.
Hector’s dolphins are considered endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The Firth of Thames is 40 miles southeast of Auckland.