Fin-tastic Facts About The Popoto For Kids

Popoto facts are fun to learn

The popoto, or the Maui dolphin, is found exclusively in New Zealand. The popoto is one of the rarest subspecies of dolphins in the entire world as there are many threats to popoto dolphins. Its population is threatened due to both commercial fishing, especially the acts of netting and trawling, and recreational netting. Fishing restrictions have been set up after it was noted that these dolphins often got stuck in fishing nets. In addition, these dolphins are also susceptible to diseases and infections like Brucellosis and Toxoplasmosis. The New Zealand government has also opened up a part of this dolphin's habitat for oil drilling, which makes the species even more vulnerable. As well as this, global warming and climate change also affect this dolphin species' habitat and range negatively, which has an impact on the already low reproductive rate of the species. Keep reading the article for more amazing facts about the popoto, also known as the Maui dolphin!

If you liked this article full of great popoto facts, you can also check out more articles with amazing facts about the common dolphin and the spinner dolphin.


Fact File

What do they prey on?

Ahuru, red codling, and flatfish

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

95-115 lb (43-52 kg)

How long are they?

4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Gray and white

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Fishing, infections, and climate change

What is their conservation status?

Critically Endangered

Where you'll find them

Island coasts


New Zealand





Scientific Name

Cephalorhynchus hectori maui





Popoto Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a popoto?

A popoto is a type of dolphin.

What class of animal does a popoto belong to?

The popoto belongs to the Mammalia class of animals.

How many popotos are there in the world?

In 2004, it was estimated that there were 111 popotos on the North Island coast. Although the exact population of popotos in the world currently is not known, the National Department of Conservation estimated that there were around 55 popoto dolphins over the age of 12 months in the year 2010-11.

Where does a popoto live?

Popotos are found only on the western coast of the North Island in New Zealand. They are found along the coast from Dargaville to New Plymouth specifically.

What is a popoto's habitat?

A wild popoto prefers to live in coastal regions or near the shores of the island. They are often found in marine waters that are less than 70 ft (21 m) deep which helps them keep track of their pods and also avoid predators.

Who do popotos live with?

Popotos are quite social and prefer to live together. However, they do not live in nuclear units with just the parental breeding pair and their offspring. Members of this species keep changing their companions and usually form sex-segregated groups. Males tend to form a group of their own separate from female dolphins and their young.

How long does a popoto live?

Popotos are known to live up to 20 years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

Maui dolphins do not pair for life. A female dolphin reaches sexual maturity between seven and nine years of age and tends to give birth to a single child every two to four years. Therefore, one sexually mature female dolphin can only have four calves in her entire life. A popoto baby dolphin is born with its dorsal fins partly folded with marks showing up along its body. They start learning how to eat fish and squid at around six months of age, but they feed on their mother's milk for the entire first year of their life.

What is their conservation status?

The organization called the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized the popoto to be Critically Endangered and has placed the species on its Red List due to their low population size. It is estimated that 0.3 Maui dolphins die each year as a result of commercial fishing.

Popoto Fun Facts

What do popotos look like?

These Maui dolphins (or popotos) are distinguishable due to the small black rounded dorsal fin on their back. These dolphins have typical streamlined bodies and a short snout that helps them wade through ocean waters with little resistance. The popoto has light gray-colored skin, and its back is marked with black and white markings that stretch to its sides and stomach.

Hector's dolphins are related and quite similar to popotos.

* Please note that this is an image of Hector's dolphin, not of a popoto specifically. If you have an image of a popoto please let us know at

How cute are they?

Popotos are quite cute! Even though these dolphins are quite rare and have not been studied or observed much due to their Critically Endangered status, they still exhibit the adorable playfulness that most other dolphins are known for.

How do they communicate?

Popotos use echolocation for hunting, navigating their surroundings, and communicating with each other. They use a variety of unique high-pitched click sounds to communicate with each other as opposed to the whistle sounds used by most other dolphins. Although they do not have any sight, they use sound through echolocation to 'see' other fish in their surroundings. This is the most unique thing about popoto dolphins!

How big is a popoto?

The popoto is one of the smallest dolphin subspecies in the world. An adult popoto grows as long as 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) in size. For reference, a whale shark is almost 10 times the size of a popoto! Males tend to be in the lower end of this range, as they are approximately 5–7% shorter than females.

How fast can a popoto swim?

Scientists have not yet been able to record the exact popoto swimming speed. However, dolphins are generally considered to be fast swimmers.

How much does a popoto weigh?

A dolphin of the popoto species usually weighs between 95-115 lb (43-52 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no separate names for male and female popoto dolphins. However, more generally, male dolphins are called 'bulls', while female dolphins are referred to as 'cows'.

What would you call a baby popoto?

A baby popoto does not have a separate, unique name. However, baby dolphins are generally referred to as 'calves'.

What do they eat?

Popotos mostly dive to the deep seafloor to find their food, but they also forage in surface-level water. Not much is known about their diet and feeding habits, but they mostly prey on and eat squids, flatfish, and red codling.

Are they friendly?

Although the friendliness of this species with regards to human beings has not been tested yet, popotos are quite friendly and playful with each other. They have been seen playing with seaweed, chasing each other for fun, and even play fighting!

Would they make a good pet?

Popotos are rare, wild dolphins found in New Zealand. This species would never make a good pet based on their habitat and social behavior.

Did you know...

The naming of this endangered dolphin is based on a Maori legend. The Maori people are Indigenous peoples of New Zealand, and their name for what is now more commonly known as North Island is Te Ika a Maui. The legend goes that a Maori fisherman one day accidentally pulled up an entire island while fishing, which was then signified to be Te Ika a Maui. Incidentally, the Maori word for 'dolphin' is 'popoto'.

What other dolphins do popotos look the same as?

The Maui dolphin used to be known as the North Island Hector's Dolphin until 2002 but it has since been identified as its own separate subspecies. Both popoto and Hector's dolphins are very similar in terms of looks, but they are physically and genetically dissimilar. For example, Maui dolphins have larger skulls than Hector's dolphins and a longer, wider snout.

How much can the popoto population grow in a year?

Popotos have a very slow reproductive rate and they face problems in maintaining their population when unnatural deaths occur. According to scientists, this endangered species may only be able to grow their population by 2% per year. That means that a population of around 55 dolphins can only increase by one individual per year.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including the Amazon river dolphin, or the Irrawaddy dolphin.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Popoto coloring pages.



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