Encounter With World’s Rarest Ocean Mammal Thrills Scientists
(Click to enlarge) Vaquita porpoises, swim in the Sea of Cortez in 2008. Scientists were relieved last week to spot several vaquitas in the wild after their population had declined 42 percent in a single year. (Credit: Paula Olson/NOAA)
Scientists feared they were on a grim mission. Biologists searching Mexico’s Sea of Cortez for the world’s most endangered marine mammal—a tiny porpoise called the vaquita—worried they might already be too late.
(From National Geographic / by Craig Welch) — As few as 97 vaquitas remained on Earth last year. With poachers and fishermen accidentally snaring them in nets, scientists suspected this elusive creature’s race to extinction might have accelerated. Yet last week, while cruising through glassy water on a research boat off Baja California, the world’s leading vaquita experts from the United States and Mexico spotted first one, then another, through binoculars. A few days later, several of the shy mammals were seen once again. There could be no doubt. Read the full story »