The Vaquita

 By: Vivienne Wellet

The most endangered animal by far in 2021 is the Vaquita. The Vaquita is a porpoise species that has a lifespan of 21 years. Females get to be as big as 4.9 feet and males can get to 4.6 feet long and adults can weigh up to 95 pounds. They are carnivorous so they like to feed on small fish, crustaceans such as shrimp, and cephalopods like squid and octopuses. They are located north of the Gulf of California. They like to stay in warm water and their dorsal fin helps them with their extra body heat to dissipate.The breed in the spring or early summer. There are nearly only 10 left making them critically endangered and the reason for it is because of illegal gillnet fishing and feeding it and to catch other critically endangered species, the Totoba fish. 

   The Totoba fish can get to as big as 6.6 feet and weigh to 220 pounds. They live in Mexico’s upper Gulf of California and they eat shrimps and smaller fish. They are so rare people charge them for 46,000 dollars per kg and the reason for it is because of its swim bladder which is a delicacy in China. Although China wants them it has been illegal to catch them since 1975 when it was placed in Mexico as an endangered species. 

   Vaquitas will find a place where after calling their nursery and laying their eggs there they hatch and grow up in the nursery and stay with their mother for 10 months. According to NOAA the porpoise has teeth that are spade- shaped teeth. They are shy, private creatures that don’t like when people come close to them but they aren’t aggressive so they won’t hurt humans.  Although it is too late to save this species from extinction, the Mexican government created a Biosphere Reserve in the upper Gulf of California in 1993 to help protect these species.  

  In 1950, Kenneth Norris, a scientist discovered the species by finding a bleached skull on the beach north of Punta San Felipe in Baja, California. A couple months later he found 2 more skull’s. Kenneth was a naturalist and researcher who discovered much and mostly what is known about dolphins and other marine mammals. Kenneth Norris was born August 11, 1924 in Los Angeles, California and died on August 16, 1998. He went to the University of Southern California and studied environmental sciences. He wrote a handful of books including, in 1974 The Porpoise Watcher,  1974 Reflections On The Wild World And Our Place In It, and 1991 The Life And Times Of The Spinner Dolphin. 

  The Vaquitas are the smallest members of the dolphins, whale , and porpoise family. According to NOAA there is likely one vaquita in captivity and is being used for their meat for other species. Scientists researching vaquitas said they will most likely become extinct before 2021 ends but if they are able to protect them then they might be able to stay till next April if they are lucky. 

Photo from Porpoise Conservation Society

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