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Scientists Rescue Baja’s First Vaquita Porpoise, Making Conservation History

VaquitaCPR
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October 21, 2017
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Researchers from VaquitaCPR are combing the Gulf of California to rescue the endangered vaquita porpoise (CNNMoney)

Scientists with the VaquitaCPR conservation project and Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment Rafael Pacchiano announced they succeeded in locating and rescuing a highly endangered vaquita porpoise this week, but in an abundance of caution the vaquita, which was a calf, was released. Experts say the calf was being closely monitored by marine mammal veterinarians and showed signs of stress, leading to its release.

“The successful rescue made conservation history and demonstrates that the goal of VaquitaCPR is feasible,” said Secretary Pacchiano. “No one has ever captured and cared for a vaquita porpoise, even for a brief period of time. This is an exciting moment and as a result, I am confident we can indeed save the vaquita marina from extinction.

Experts had planned extensively for the scenario that unfolded on Wednesday and every precaution was taken to safeguard the health of the vaquita calf, which was estimated to be about six months old.

“While we were disappointed we could not keep the vaquita in human care, we have demonstrated that we are able to locate and capture a vaquita,” said Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a senior scientist with SEMARNAT, CIRVA and VaquitaCPR Program Director. “We also succeeded in transporting one and conducting health evaluations that are part of our protocols safeguarding the animals’ health.”

Scientists returned the vaquita calf to the same spot in the Gulf of California where it was originally located and where other vaquitas were observed. Before releasing the vaquita, various tissue samples were taken which scientists will analyze and share with colleagues at other research institutions like the Frozen Zoo in San Diego, California which will conduct genetic sequencing.

The precedent-setting rescue comes as the bold conservation plan led by the Mexican government (SEMARNAT) to save the endangered vaquita porpoise from extinction enters its second week of field operations. During the first three days, scientists spotted several vaquitas using visual search methods and acoustic monitoring. Vaquitas were repeatedly located by the VaquitaCPR ‘find’ team.

The vaquita porpoise, also known as the ‘panda of the sea,’ is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Latest estimates by scientists who have been monitoring the vaquita for decades show there are fewer than 30 vaquitas left in the wild. The vaquita only lives in the upper Gulf of California.

Read the rest at VaquitaCPR

  Check out Deep Blue Conservancy

  Check out The Western Ecological Society

  Check out Ecological Group of Costa Verde

  Check out Association for Environmental Unity in Mexico

  Check out Fideicomiso Estero el Salado

  Check out Banderas Bay Initiative


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