top of page

Tūpoupou ~
Hector's Dolphin


(Cephalorhynchus hectori )

The Tūpoupou or Hector's dolphin is one of the smallest oceanic dolphins in the world!  Did you know they can ONLY be found in New Zealand? We even have our own population of Hector's right here in Marlborough! Follow along to learn all about our tiny Tūpoupou and enjoy the fun and games along the way!


The Hector's Dolphin, found only in New Zealand, are the world's smallest oceanic dolphins. There are two sub-species, the Maui's that are super rare and found in the North Island, and the Hector's Dolphin found along the coastlines of the South Island. 

You can easily identify them by their small, rounded black dorsal fin that looks like mickey mouse's ear popping out of the water!


Ailie Suzuki - Hector 7.jpg

Image Credit - Ailie Suzuki


Throughout this page you'll find some fun activities and resources you can explore at

home with your whānau and friends.

Some of these resources have been put together with the help of our fantastic local organisations.

A huge thank you to those people who have helped put these together for us, we appreciate your support!

Don't forget to share your activities with us, either tag us on social media

or email them to us at


Hector's dolphins are revered as a taonga by Maori. Some believe that the spirits of the dead would become tutumairekurai (Hector's Dolphins).

Tutumairekurai is the most common of the Maori names for Hector's dolphin, meaning "ocean dweller".

Papakanua, tūpoupou, hopuhopu and upokohue were names also used - these can vary depending on hapu and iwi.

Image Credit - Ailie Suzuki


Te Ao


ACTIVITY - Tūpoupou / Hector Fact Wheel

Tūpoupou Spinning Fact Wheel

Have some fun making this spinning wheel of Hector's facts. Download and print off the template, make it nice and colourful... and don't forget to add some of your own facts to it as well!

Click the image to download the PDF sheet!
Ailie Suzuki Hector 4.jpg

Tūpoupou are social, but it' s not unusual to see them in small groups of less than 5 or 6. They tend to prefer shallower waters along the coastlines, which is why you can often spot them from the shore if you look at the right place at the right time!
They general prefer waters shallower than 100m deep, and often in murky waters where their food likes to hang out.



Image Credit - Ailie Suzuki

ARTS & CRAFTS - Make a Tūpoupou Puppet

Tūpoupou Puppet

Otago University have a fantastic Hector's Dolphin Puppet activity you can do at home! Click on the image to download the template and give it ago - don't forget to share the finished puppet with us. We would love to see your creation and your conservation message.

Click the image to


& Diet

Hectors are opportunistic and like to feed on a wide range of prey, but they mostly feed off bottom-dwelling fish and other species. This means food that swims or hangs along close to the ocean floor. Hector's like to feed on small red cod, āhuru flatfish, stargazer, sprat and arrow squid to name a few!


GAMES - Food Web Game

Grab some of your friends or whānua and have a go at the food web game.

Learn all about the part Tūpoupou play with in the food cycle.

Food Web Game


This game aims to demonstrate how the food chain works and how each species eats and the roles they play.


This also shows the important role the Hector's play in the food chain and how their numbers can affect the entire food web. 


Click on the image to find out how to play! (Video instructions coming soon).


If you give this game a go with your class or some friends take a pic or video and share it with us!

Ailie Suzuki - Hector 5.jpg

A baby Hector's Dolphin is called a calf. A female Tūpoupou typically has one calve every 2 to 4 years, which is not very often, especially as the adults only really live for around 25 years. The calves stay with their mothers for 1 to 2 years before heading out on their own.  



Image Credit - Ailie Suzuki

ACTIVITY - Test Your Knowledge

Test your knowledge - Tūpoupou Facts

Have a go at testing your knowledge on what you have learnt about the Hector's Dolphin. *HINT* You can find the answers to the questions right here on this page!


Click on the image below to download the quiz and have a go.

See how many you can answer!

Tūpoupou Test your knowledge .png
Click the image to download the quiz!
Click the Hector to download the answers.


Crazy Facts!

Did you know that Dolphins communicate by making very short, high-frequency clicking sounds and even various whistles. They also communicate by slapping their tails on the water or leaping into the air. Dolphins are also very tactile, meaning they like to touch and can even leave little marks on each other's bodies with their teeth! (These are called 'rake marks').

DSC_0030 (1).png

Image Credit - Ailie Suzuki

Other Tūpoupou Resources 

Below you will find links to other Tūpoupou resources, click the images to take you to the websites. Check them out!

Hector's Dolphin, Kiwi of the Sea

by Michal Bush

Little Hector meets Mini Māui 

by Ruth Paul

Department of Conservation

For more Hector information click the image 


DOC  - Toyota Kiwi Guardian Activity

Help look after the Hector's Dolphins by

becoming a costal protector!

Although the Toyota Kiwi Guardian programme has now finished and you can no longer claim the medals.

The activates are still a fantastic way for your tamariki to help support our conservation and native species.  


Below is a link to the "Costal Protector" activity instructions!

Explore a coastline near you, discover what wildlife lives there. Then take action to help protect it.  

Costal Protector.png
Click the image to download a PDF Instruction sheet to learn how to become a Coastal Protector!

Some of the biggest threats to not only our Tūpoupou / Hector's dolphins but also our Māui dolphins, are fishing nets. Dolphins can become entangled and trapped, and as they need to breathe air, they can die in a matter of minutes.

Ocean pollution and litter is also a large concern and threat. Our Hector's can accidentally eat plastic and other rubbish, or be affected by illness caused by human impact.

Because our Hector's and Māui like to live close to shore our boating activities can also be a threat. Hector's can be accidentally hit by boats or struck by propellers.  




What YOU can do!

Don't worry! There are lots of ways you can help protect our Tūpoupou Hector's and other dolphins, while still enjoying the ocean:

  • Be a responsible with your rubbish, make sure you dispose of your rubbish correctly, so it doesn't end up in the ocean. 

  • If you are fishing, make sure you follow the correct rules to keep our Hector's safe. You can find them all here - Fishing Rules

  • Dispose of your cat litter properly - cat feces are a source of the disease toxoplasmosis which can harm Hector's and Māui dolphins. We don't want it ending up in our oceans!

hello hector!!-1.jpg

Image Credit - Ailie Suzuki


Act safely on the water around dolphins

When out on a boat there are ways you can safely observe any marine life you come across including the Hector's dolphin. 

Click HERE to learn how you can safely share our coast lines with our beautiful taonga of the ocean. 


Image Credit - Department of Conservation NZ

Visit a Tūpoupou - Hector Dolphin

If you want to see Hector's here in Marlborough, why not head out to explore our beautiful sounds!  Just remember wildlife is wildlife, they go where they want to so it is never a guarantee you will spot them, but keep an eye out just in case! Here are a few different business you can go explore the Marlborough Sounds with:


Tūpoupou Punga Gallery 
Images from some of our Hector events

2023 Hector Day Event

bottom of page