Interesting Facts About Vaquita: The Rarest Porpoise

Vaquitas

Vaquitas

Vaquita is the smallest and rarest porpoise that belongs to the order Cetacea. It can be found only in the northern parts of the Gulf of California, in Mexico. Vaquita lives on a territory of 900 square miles, which is the smallest area occupied by a whale species.
Vaquitas are the smallest and most endangered species of the infraorder Cetacea and are endemic to the northern end of the Gulf of California. The vaquita is somewhat stocky and has a characteristic porpoise shape. The species is distinguishable by the dark rings surrounding their eyes, patches on their lips, and a line that extends from their dorsal fins to their mouths. Their backs are a dark grey that fades to white undersides. As vaquitas mature, the shades of grey lighten. Female vaquitas tend to grow larger than males.
On average, females mature to a length of 140.6 cm (55.4 in), compared to 134.9 cm (53.1 in) for males. The lifespan, pattern of growth, seasonal reproduction, and testes size of the vaquita are all similar to that of the harbor porpoise. The flippers are proportionately larger than those of other porpoises, and the fin is taller and more falcated. The skull is smaller and the rostrum is shorter and broader than in other members of the genus.
It has been listed as critically endangered since 1996. The population was estimated at 600 in 1997, below 100 in 2014, approximately 60 in 2015 and approximately 30 in November 2016, leading to the conclusion that the species will soon be extinct unless drastic action is taken.
The population decrease is largely attributed to bycatch from the illegal gillnet fishery for the totoaba, a similarly sized endemic drum that is also critically endangered. Other threats to the survival of vaquitas are chemical pollution of water and climate changes that decrease amount of available food. The population decline has occurred despite an investment of tens of millions of dollars by the Mexican government in efforts to eliminate the bycatch. With remaining 150 animals in the wild, vaquita is listed as critically endangered.
Discover some amazing and interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Vaquita.
1. In November 2017, the attempt to capture wild vaquitas for captive breeding and safekeeping was suspended following the death of a female vaquita. The adult female died within hours of being captured. In December 2017, Mexico, the United States and China agreed to take further steps to prevent trade in totoaba bladders.
2. A partial gillnet ban was put in place for two years in May 2015; its scheduled expiration at the end of May 2017 spurred a campaign to have it extended and strengthened. On 7 June 2017, an agreement was announced by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to make the gillnet ban permanent and strengthen enforcement. As well as the Mexican government and various environmental organizations, this effort will now also involve the foundations of Mexican businessman Carlos Slim and American actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio.
3. Like other Phocoena, vaquitas are usually seen singly. If they are seen together, it is usually in small groups of two or three individuals. Less often, groups around ten have been observed, with the most ever seen at once being 40 individuals.
4. On 28 October 2008, Canada, Mexico, and the United States launched the North American Conservation Action Plan (NACAP) for the vaquita, under the jurisdiction of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a NAFTA environmental organization. The NACAP is a strategy to support Mexico’s efforts to recover the vaquita.
5. Sharks have been determined to be the only predators of vaquitas. Because of its limited number of predator species, the vaquita population is sensitive to small changes in predation from sharks. Although the vaquita accounts for only a small percentage of the diets of sharks in the region, extinction of the vaquita could potentially cause negative effects on shark population sizes.

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