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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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Posts Tagged ‘vaquita’

Seal Team 6 Dolphins to Rescue the World’s Most Endangered Dolphin?

Posted by Richard Conniff on July 7, 2017

(Richard Ellis/Getty)

Many news organizations are reporting that conservationists will use military-trained dolphins to find and help round up the last vaquitas for a captive breeding program. I’m not sure if these dolphins are playing the part of Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead, or if it’s a Judas find-and-betray thing.  But the notion of Seal Team 6 dolphins coming to the rescue of critically endangered species fills me with trepidation. By way of background, I am republishing this column I wrote at Thanksgiving in 2014 about the plight of the world’s most endangered dolphin.


by Richard Conniff/

One thing for which we should give profound thanks this year is the success of environmental action at stopping or slowing the killing of many endangered marine mammals. As a result, populations of humpback whales, bowhead whales, gray whales, and other species are now rebuilding. But this Thanksgiving, one of the world’s 78 cetacean species still faces its do-or-die moment.

The vaquita, a small porpoise found only in the Gulf of California, is the world’s most endangered marine mammal. Fewer than 100 exist in the wild. Without drastic and immediate action, this species will almost certainly go the way of the Chinese river dolphin, or baiji—declared extinct after a 2006 survey of the Yangtze River turned up zero dolphins. It was the only cetacean humans are known to have snuffed out: a global moment of infamy, not just for China, but for us all. In a final effort not to share that shame, Mexico is expected to announce this week a last desperate effort to save the vaquita.

The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is a strange and elusive creature, only discovered by scientists in 1958.  It grows to a length of four feet, has a blunt, balloon-like face, and lives by feeding on fish and crustaceans in the shallow waters of the Gulf. People almost never see them alive. Vaquita sightings occur

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