The only cetacean known to go extinct due to human activity is the Baiji, Lipotes vexillifer. In 2006, after an intense, 6-week search in all of the Baiji’s historic range, it was considered extinct. Don’t let the Vaquita be the second. Learn more about the Baiji by clicking on the links below.
The Vaquita has never survived in captivity.
The Vaquita has neither an obvious beak nor melon.
There are no known subspecies of Vaquita. This is because they have such a limited distribution in one singular location, with no evolutionary separation. At one point, however, the Vaquita and Burmeister’s Porpoise might have been the same species, millions of years ago.
Vaquita actually don’t drown when they get entangled in gillnets. Despite being able to hold their breath for long periods of time, they quickly go into a state of shock and their heart stops usually before they can escape. This is a natural, but very unfortunate, reaction that eliminates the possibility of catch-and-release in gillnet bycatch.
Some other names for the Vaquita are Cochito, Gulf of California Harbor Porpoise, Gulf of California Porpoise, Gulf Porpoise, Hafenschweinswal, and Marsouin du Golfe de Californie.
The Vaquita is one of the top 100 EDGE species, meaning “Evolutionarily Distinct, Globally Endangered.” Evolutionarily distinct animals have no close relatives and represent proportionally more of the tree of life than other species, meaning they are top priority for conservation campaigns. As of September 21, 2011, $32.6 million had been invested for the Vaquita. But that’s not enough. Please donate here.
One of the surest ways to tell the difference between a stranded dolphin and a porpoise is their teeth. Porpoises’ teeth are spade-shaped, while the dolphins’ are conical. In the field, the best way to identify a porpoise is that they are generally smaller and more shy than any other cetacean, with the Vaquita being the most extreme example.
Although geographically closer to the Harbor Porpoise off the coast of central California around 1,500 miles away, the Vaquita is more closely related to a Southern Hemisphere species of porpoise, the Burmeister’s Porpoise. The Burmeister’s Porpoise occurs some 3,000 miles away in Peru, and further south. Most likely, the Vaquita evolved from an ancestral population that moved northward into the Gulf of California around one million years ago during the Pleistocene era.
The damming of the Colorado River in the United States has led to a decrease in freshwater input into the upper Gulf of California. The long-term impact on the Vaquita from this drastic habitat alteration is of serious concern, though not as much as gillnet fishing.