Is there any way to stop the extinction of the world’s rarest marine mammal? It’s a pressing question for conservationists.
They’ve posed the same question of the white rhino, saiga antelope and golden lion tamarin with varying degrees of success. Conservation is no easy task, and saving an endangered species of marine life comes with a unique set of challenges that complicates the undertaking.
Compared to the white rhino or saiga antelope, the vaquita is a relatively new discovery. It’s the most recent cetacean — a grouping that includes whales and dolphins — to be recognized by modern science. It was only in 1966 that a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recovered the first full specimen for observation.
Since then, the vaquita population has only continued to diminish. Earlier in the decade, an estimated 200 vaquitas inhabited the Northern Gulf of California in Mexico — shallow waters that make up their natural habitat. Today, fewer than 30 of these rare porpoises remain.