Endangered porpoise dies after rescue efforts in Mexico

A mature female porpoise, of the 'vaquita' species has died after just a few hours in captivity in Mexico

Rare vaquita porpoise
Rare vaquita porpoise

A rare porpoise, known as a ‘vaquita’ died in Mexico after being captured as part of a rescue effort for the species.

There are thought to be just 30 left in the wild. Vaquitas, the world’s smallest species of porpoise are rare and endemic to the northern part of the Gulf of California.

Mexico’s environment minister said that Saturday’s capture of the species was a “great achievement that fills us with hope”. However, he later said that the captured vaquita “suffered complications” and died.

The mature female died after just a few hours in captivity in a floating pen, which is raising questions about the last-ditch effort to enclose the porpoises to save them from extinction.

The Mexican government and conservation groups since launched a plan to save the species, involving capturing as many as possible and taking them to a protected marine reserve.

The vaquita marina, known as the "panda of the sea", was captured on Saturday, making it the first animal of reproductive age captured by the project.

The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita, which is involved with the programme, said that although the conservation operation was risky, scientists warned that "the risk of extinction due to mortality in fishing nets was much greater than the risk of rescue efforts."

The vaquita has been nearly wiped out by gillnets used to fish for the also-endangered totoaba fish.

The swim bladder of the totoaba is a delicacy in China and can fetch as much as $20,000 per kilogram.

In June, the Mexican government announced a permanent ban on gillnets in the vaquita's habitat.

The government has committed more than $100 million to save the vaquita, as well as supporting the fishing community.

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