Mexico’s Gulf of California is home to one of the most endangered species of porpoise in the world: the vaquita.
— WWF (@WWF) May 9, 2017
Located in the western part of Mexico, just south of California, it is believed that as few as 30 of the mammals are still alive. Their numbers are so low that scientists believe the only way to save the endangered animal is by relocating those remaining in the wild to a sanctuary in San Felipe, Mexico, The Guardian reports.
To save the vaquita porpoise, the Mexican government and the U.S. Association of Zoos and Aquariums have started a $4 million campaign.
Last-ditch attempt to save the endangered vaquita porpoise https://t.co/GDQKYfr28V
— All4PeoplePower (@All4PeoplePower) May 4, 2017
The money will go to securing the necessary technology to locate the rare porpoises remaining in the wild, as well as using trained dolphins to help in that process, and providing them with holding pens that will transport them to the sanctuary.
Scientists are unsure of how the porpoise will react to this process, as no one has managed to successfully capture a living vaquita.
Sea Shepherd captured rare footage of the endangered vaquita porpoise in the waters of Mexico’s Gulf of California https://t.co/9vkmARx0uQ
— Isla Espiritu Santo (@IslaEspiriSanto) May 11, 2015
They are so rare that footage of vaquitas is hard to find. This video was taken in 2015, which shows only the briefest glimpse of the animal in its natural habitat.
In an effort to bring awareness to the vaquita’s struggle, actor Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted the following:
— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) May 11, 2017
The Oscar-winning actor is known for taking on environmental causes.
As the Huffington Post reported, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted support for DiCaprio’s message.
— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) May 12, 2017
Peña Nieto then went on a Twitter tear, providing information about Mexico’s efforts to save the vaquita.
The vaquita has faced threats from numerous sources in the Gulf of California.
— Steve C (@williedawgy) March 28, 2017
The Guardian reports that the vaquita are often caught in the nets of fishermen illegally hunting the totoaba, another endangered animal in the Gulf of California, whose bladder “commands a higher price than cocaine,” according to Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change’s Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho. The nets used, called gill nets, are the perfect size to capture the vaquita, and were banned from the Gulf of California until this past April.
Even with the ban, these aggressive, illegal fishing practices, have caused the porpoise’s numbers to drop by 90 percent over the last five years, The Huffington Post reports.
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) May 12, 2017
Even with their numbers reaching grim levels, activists are working hard to ensure the species will survive. As Rojas-Bracho told The Guardian, “we have to do our best or [the vaquita] will be lost to the planet forever.”
[H/T] The Guardian: Last-ditch attempt to save the endangered vaquita porpoise