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First extinction alert issued in 70 years to help rarest marine mammal on earth

First extinction alert issued in 70 years to help rarest marine mammal on earth

As humanity continues to take its toll on the planet, experts now fear we could lose the world's smallest marine mammal.

The world’s smallest marine mammal is nearing extinction – with just ten left in the wild.

Experts are now so concerned that they’ve launched the first extinction alert in 70 years, as they fear that the animal will disappear from our waters.

This is despite efforts from local governments and a major A-Lister to bring the animal back from the brink.

The marine mammal is under threat.
Wikipedia Commons/Paula Olson

Found in the Gulf of California, the vaquitas are a type of small porpoise (similar to dolphins) and measure around 4 – 5ft (1.2m– 1.5m).

Though they are incredibly cute, the population has dropped from 570 in 1997 to around just 10 today, experts estimate.

It is thought that their sudden decline has been brought on by gillnets, a type of flat net used to illegally hunt for totoaba fish – which are then sold on the black market for traditional Chinese medicines.

Mexico has tried to crack down on the trade but, sadly, the number of vaquitas has continued to drop in recent years.

With the animal almost extinct, the IWC has made its first-ever extinction alert to raise awareness about the minute marine mammal.

In a statement, the commission said: “Despite nearly thirty years of repeated warnings, the vaquita hovers on the edge of extinction due to gillnet entanglement.”

Speaking about the disheartening update, Dr Lindsay Porter told The Guardian: “We wanted, with the extinction alert, to send the message to a wider audience and for everyone to understand how serious this is.”

Experts now fear there are just vaquitas left in the wild.
Wikipedia Commons/Paula Olson

The stark warning comes after several failed attempts to save the vaquitas, with authorities even teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation.

Back in 2017, the A-Lister teamed up with authorities to help conserve the fragile ecosystem in and around Mexico’s waters.

At the time, he told fans: “Now more than ever, the world is looking for bold leadership at every level to tackle climate change and environmental conservation issues.”

Other conversation tactics included using navy-trained dolphins to locate the remaining vaquitas and an ambitious captive breeding programme.

Though $5 million was pledged to the VaquitaCPR project, it was abandoned after the sudden death of a female vaquita.

More recently, the Mexican government have tried to create a zero-tolerance area (ZTA) for gillnets, using 193 concrete blocks to prevent illegal fishing.

Experts suggest that there could be up to a 90 per cent decrease in hunting, giving a small glimmer of hope for the vaquitas.

Featured Image Credit: Greenpeace / BBC Earth

Topics: Animals, Nature, US News