Wellington, June 17 (IANS) The New Zealand government on Monday unveiled a plan to expand and strengthen the protection for the endangered Maui and Hector's dolphins.Proposals for consultation for a revised Threat Management Plan to protect the dolphins released on Monday. Extending the boundaries of the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary south to Wellington and extending the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary north to Kaikoura, south to Timaru, and offshore to 20 nautical miles are included in the proposals.The proposals also include the Department of Conservation developing an action plan to deal with toxoplasmosis, a disease that can affect dolphins and other marine mammals, by targeting research to answer knowledge gaps, enhancing education for cat owners and advocating for riparian and wetland restoration."These precious dolphins are New Zealand taonga (treasure). We need to act now to ensure their populations increase and both species thrive," said Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage.It is estimated that only 63 Maui dolphins are remaining, and Hector's dolphins are nationally vulnerable with about 15,000 in New Zealand waters.
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