There is fresh hope of survival for the world's rarest sea mammal

2 mins
06 May 2022
There is fresh hope of survival for the world's rarest sea mammal

Despite there only being 10 left in the ocean, the rare porpoise might not be doomed after all

image Talia Cohen

words Eve Walker

The silvery vaquita porpoise, which lives in Mexico’s Gulf of California, is at risk of extinction. This small mammal has been listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List as ‘critically endangered’. However, a recent scientific study offers new hope for its future. UCLA doctoral student in ecology Christopher Kyriazis points out that “the vaquita is not doomed by genetic factors, like harmful mutations, that tend to affect many other species whose gene pool has diminished to a similar point.” DNA test show that the species is still genetically viable, which means that future inbreeding will not be detrimental to their survival.

“It really comes down to our choices and actions in terms of giving the vaquita the best chance at surviving”
Christopher Kyriazis, UCLA doctoral student in ecology

Their biggest threat now is humans – yet we are also what can save them. If we are able to fight back against illegal fishing as well as removing gillnets from its habitat in the ocean, the vaquita porpoise would still have a chance at survival. Dr Jacqueline Robinson of the University of California says, “It really comes down to our choices and actions in terms of giving the vaquita the best chance at surviving.” Being only 4-5ft long, the mammals become easily trapped in large gillnets and die. Working with the Mexican government, Sea Shepherd Conservation has been surveying the porpoises’ habitat at the source, monitoring illegal fishing activity and physically removing over 1000 gillnets since 2015. You can donate to support their incredible work here.

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While there are over a million species at risk of extinction, there is still hope for the future of the animal kingdom. In recent years, there have been a number of animals saved from extinction through extensive conservation work, including the city-loving Peregrine falcon, the Mallorcan midwife toad, the smallest toad in the world, which is incidentally the only species of toad to be downgraded from critically endangered to vulnerable; and the adorable sea otter, who play an important role in marine life and the balance of ecosystems. These triumphs are all worth celebrating and remembering when it seems like all hope is lost.

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