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Mission Critical: GWC Steps Up to Save World’s Last Vaquitas

With only about 30 Vaquita porpoises left in the wild, Global Wildlife Conservation has made a significant financial contribution in support of a collaborative and ambitious emergency rescue plan to save the world’s most endangered marine mammal. The emergency plan calls for capturing and relocating Vaquitas to a temporary sanctuary while conservationists join the Mexican government in continuing crucial efforts to eliminate threats to the species.

“While we prefer for animals to live in their natural habitats in the wild, this last-ditch effort is the only way forward for this species, which is emblematic of our planet’s extinction crisis,” says Wes Sechrest, GWC chief scientist and CEO. “We stand behind the valiant efforts of the Mexican government and VaquitaCPR in this critically important conservation and recovery effort. While securing the last Vaquitas is an immediate need, we also look forward to supporting the Mexican government’s restoration of the Gulf of California to a state where Vaquitas and all other species can once again be safe from human impacts.”

Earlier this month the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and more than 100 of its members pledged more than $1 million toward the VaquitaCPR emergency rescue plan, joining the Mexican government, which announced that it is committing up to $3 million to the project. VaquitaCPR (Conservation, Protection, and Recovery) is an emergency action plan led by the Mexican government, with the input of an expert group of conservation scientists and marine mammal veterinarians.

“Experts from around the world have come together and are working to save the Vaquita in much the same way conservationists rescued the California condor from extinction in the 1980s,” says Randy Wells, a senior conservation scientist from the AZA-accredited Chicago Zoological Society. “We recognize that the odds are stacked against us, but the conservation and scientific communities feel a duty to act and we hope our collective expertise can make a difference.”

Vaquitas, which live only in the northern Gulf of Mexico, weren’t described as separate from Harbour Porpoises until 1958 and have since been pushed to the edge of extinction as the result of human activity. They become entangled in gill nets set during illegal fishing to catch a Critically Endangered drum fish, the Totoaba, whose bladder is valuable in markets in China. A survey done in the summer of 2016 estimated that the Vaquita population is at 30 individuals, half of what it was in 2015 and one-third of its population in 2014.

“Does the public care enough to help save the most endangered marine mammal in the world?” asks Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, lead researcher and head of Mexico’s International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita. “I think so. We can’t stand by and watch this precious resource disappear.”

(Top photo by Thomas A. Jefferson/VIVA Vaquita)

About the Author

Lindsay Renick Mayer

Lindsay Renick Mayer

Lindsay is the associate director of communications for Global Wildlife Conservation and has a particular interest in leveraging communications to inspire conservation action. Lindsay is passionate about species-based conservation and finding compelling ways to tell stories that demonstrate the value of all of the planet’s critters, big and microscopic.