What is the most endangered marine mammal in the world? It’s the adorable vaquita porpoise, with a depressingly low population of as few as 10 individuals. If any animal needs a day for raising awareness, it’s the vaquita. Luckily, today is International Save the Vaquita Day. And I wanted to share a super fast ZooFit awareness challenge to honor these “pandas of the sea.”
Awareness is Key
When I created the ZooFit Safari, I added a special section in the Appendix for Conservation Fitness Challenges. These challenges don’t necessarily do anything for conservation except to raise awareness. But sometimes awareness is key to inspiring action. Many people don’t even know vaquita porpoises exist much less they are critically endangered.
Becoming aware of the issue is the first step toward fixing any problem. Yes, the situation is bleak for vaquitas, but with International Save the Vaquita Day, there is still hope. Extinction means forever, endangered means we still have a fighting chance.
Vaquita CPR- Conservation, Protection, Recovery
Found only in a small area of the Gulf of California, the future looks pretty bleak for vaquitas. With only 10 individuals, they are classified as “functionally extinct”, meaning there isn’t likely enough genetic diversity within the population to carry on.
There have been many efforts to help boost the vaquita porpoise population. In 2017, Vaquita CPR attempted to create a captive breeding program to help the species. In the past, these programs brought back animals from the brink of extinction with huge amounts of success. The California condor, black-footed ferrets, Przewalski horse, scimitar-horned oryx, golden lion tamarins, and Cayman Island blue iguanas are just a small sample of the animals saved by zoo breeding programs. There was also enough research from captive dolphins and whales that scientists felt confident they could bring vaquitas back to a sustainable population with managed breeding.
However, vaquitas proved to be too stressed in a captive environment and did not thrive. One died in a short time after being collected, and another became so stressed they released her after only a couple of hours. So Vaquita CPR quickly turned around and is now focused on protecting the remaining vaquita.
Protecting the Panda of the Sea
Illegal gillnets aimed at catching a large marine fish known as totoaba are the main threat to vaquita. These practice indiscriminately kill hundreds of other marine animals, including vaquitas. The totoaba fetch a high price on the black market in China. Despite millions of dollars invested to protect vaquita, they are still at high risk. Our last hope to save this beautiful marine mammal is completely eliminating gillnet fishing from their habitat.
Our consumer actions play a part in protecting this species. Ensuring your seafood was sustainably caught doesn’t just help the vaquita, but all cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises). Tell your friends and family about the plight of this tiny marine mammal, so they can make wiser consumer choices as well.
If you are able to, donate to organizations ( Vaquita CPR and the Porpoise Conservation Society) which are putting more pressure on Mexican government to protect the remaining vaquita and step up efforts to enforce the gillnet ban in the Gulf of California. Researchers and groups are fighting hard to bring this porpoise back from the brink of certain extinction. They need any help. Signing petitions, writing letters urging government to increase their efforts, and funding researchers and rescue efforts are the best ways to fight the tragedy of losing another species to human greed.
Vaquita Awareness Challenge
My challenge is super simple. There are only 10 vaquita left on the planet. I’m asking you today to do 10 vaquita V-holds. You can hold the pose for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or a minute each. Just 10, one for each porpoise which gives us a little more hope.
The challenge is simple because I want to drive home how little actions can make a difference, how few left there are, and hope to inspire you to learn more about what you can do (rather than completely exhaust you and leave you too tired to do anything else).
We still can change the world. It just takes us working together. Let’s celebrate International Save the Vaquita Day and do our part.
Eat clean, live green, and train positive.