Why are we doing this?

We spend a lot of time asking how to save the Vaquita.

However, asking why may be just as important.

To me, it has always been obvious. When any creature is in trouble, I want to help it; let alone when we are the reason behind its suffering. There are countless other amazing people who think this way, and because of them, the Vaquita is still swimming today.

But this morning I read a comment on a social media post about how exciting the recent Vaquita sightings are, and it went something like this:

“Thank God. Now, because of this, all the homeless have homes, the unemployed have jobs, and the beaten wives have boxing lessons. It’s so great that we’ve seen a bloody porpoise.”

I will not name this person, because, of course, everyone is entitle to their own opinions. I just found this comment very intriguing. I am sure this person is not alone in thinking this way about environmental issues, so I will delve into this a little.

I will start off by saying homelessness, poverty, and abuse are some of the most tragic realities of our world today. It is unfair that people have to spend the only life they have in such terrible situations. And because of how upsetting these things are to the general public, there are countless organizations dedicated to helping these sufferers and victims.

But just because there is something terrible happening, doesn’t mean that all other terrible situations should be forgotten about. There are enough people in this world to help both humans and nature.

And believe me, nature needs saving.

But why? What’s the big deal if an almost never-seen porpoise disappears? Here is an excerpt from my upcoming article (stay tuned for when it gets published) in the Journal of Marine Animals and Their Ecology:

“The extinction of the Vaquita would have major global impacts in a variety of ways. The effect on the local ecosystem would be seen very quickly because the Vaquita is an important species in the food web. If Mexico allows the Vaquita to go extinct, there would be numerous social and economical repercussions. In addition, every living organism is valuable; an entire species is even more so. We have the moral duty to save a species when we are the reason they are endangered. Finally, the outcome of the Vaquita’s situation will affect conservationists all over the world. If the Vaquita goes extinct, it will send the message that we don’t have the will to save endangered species, and it will happen again and again. However, if we do save the Vaquita, it will inspire conservationists to work harder to save other species in similar situations. The Vaquita needs to be saved for the Vaquita, its ecosystem, other endangered species, and for us.”

The philosophy that humans are the only species that matters has put our planet into a downward spiral for the past few hundred years. We haven’t really felt the effects of this spiral yet, but very soon, we are going to experience the repercussions of our collective neglect for this planet’s resources and for other species.

However, it is not too late to reverse some of the damages we have made. One of the best opportunities to do so in dramatic fashion is to save the Vaquita.

So when three Vaquitas are seen by decision-making Mexican dignitaries at the beginning of an extremely important survey, just when hope is fading, there is reason to celebrate. That is why we are glad to see a bloody porpoise.

Here is a photo gallery of the expedition so far, and it gives an idea of how important it really is:

Expedition gallery

SEMARNAT Press Conference

Most recently, the illegal Totoaba trade has been focused in Hong Kong, as discovered by Greenpeace. Please sign their petition to end this trade, which as you may know, is the primary cause for Vaquita bycatch:

Greenpeace Hong Kong Petition

And lastly, Mexican-American non-profit organization World’s Aquarium has created a campaign to fund their program to help monitor the illegal fishing in the Gulf. Non-governmental participation is a necessary effort in this fight. Please donate if you can; there are no better causes:

Marina Vaquita Observer Program

Let’s save this bloody porpoise! 😉

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Vaquita Blanket Challenge

TAKE THE VAQUITA BLANKET CHALLENGE AND NOMINATE YOUR FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME!
The Vaquita porpoise is the world’s most endangered marine mammal with only 97 left in existence. They live in only in a small area within the Sea of Cortez between Baja and mainland Mexico. They drown when caught in gill nets set for shrimp or by poachers trying to capture another endangered fish, the Totoaba for their swim bladders considered a delicacy in Chinese restaurants. The Vaquita can be saved if the poachers are stopped and the fisherman switch to the vaquita safe trawl nets provided for them by the Mexican government. Yet, with most people unaware of the problem, there is reluctance to take these steps in time! Help us save the Vaquita by taking the Vaquita Blanket Challenge, posting about it and nominating your friends to do so as well. If we can raise awareness of this issue, we will have a chance to save a species! Let’s work together to do it!
How to Take the Vaquita Blanket Challenge:
Get two twin bed size blankets. Lay on the first blanket with your feet crossed at the ankles like a Vaquita tail and your arms behind your back with your hands clasped at the small of your back. Have someone wrap you tightly (roll you up in) the first blanket and then the opposite way in the second blanket. Now, have someone time you trying to get out without rolling over, without standing up and with minimal use of your arms. Can you get out in 97 seconds? Post your time along with this message (and optionally a video or picture of you taking the challenge) on social media, email it to your friends, and nominate 3 other friends to do so as well. Did you feel momentarily trapped like a Vaquita might feel in a net? If you’ve taken the challenge, you are eligible to buy and wear the Vaquita Blanket Challenge T-shirt at: http://www.booster.com/vaquitablanketchallenge. You can also make a donation toward the Muskwa Club’s efforts to save the Vaquita. Wear your shirt with pride to help spread the word about the Vaquita before it’s too late!
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The painting is finished!

Despedida Vaquita

Frédérique Lucas’ masterpiece is complete. Four months in the making, the 17-year-old artist revealed her photo-realistic painting to the world yesterday. Titled “Despedida (Goodbye) Vaquita,” the work manages to capture raw emotion like few other paintings do. It depicts an entangled, washed up Vaquita on a Mexican beach, while the sun vanishes just as the porpoise’s life did. Please share the link below with everyone you know to inspire them to help the Vaquita. We need artwork like this to light a fire in us all to try our hardest to protect this porpoise. Thank you Frédérique and everyone that shares this painting and the Vaquita’s story. I have yet to hear of someone who was not moved by the Vaquita’s predicament, so the problem is that not enough people know. If they did, it would be a whole lot easier to save these little guys.

http://namu-the-orca.deviantart.com/art/Despedida-Vaquita-Goodbye-Vaquita-470879101

In other news, Save the Whales is running a Vaquita drawing contest for students, with the deadline being August 15: http://www.savethewhales.org/STV_StudentContest.html.
The prizes are either 4 tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or an “Adopt-a-Vaquita Kit” if you can’t make it to California. Those are outstanding prizes, especially for only drawing a picture! This is an opportunity not only to get great cetacean prizes, but also to support the Vaquita while making artwork. I won’t be submitting anything, but I will be making some larger Vaquita paintings soon, where I will put them up for auction with the proceeds going to the Vaquita, as always.
🙂

International Save the Vaquita Day tomorrow!

I want YOU

If you haven’t already heard, tomorrow (or today in some places), Saturday, July 12, is International Save the Vaquita Day. ISTVD is a day dedicated to protecting the innocent little Vaquita. The world has been rough to this petite porpoise, and tomorrow is a chance for us to start paying it back. So what will you be doing for International Save the Vaquita Day? Below is a list of confirmed venues for tomorrow. Please check out Facebook or email me at <gl.tamarin123@gmail.com> to find out what times the tables will be. If you can’t find out, a good bet is late morning, and most tables will last for at least a 3-4 hours. Please click here to spread the word, and here to sign VIVA Vaquita’s petition. For a lot more information on ISTVD, check out: https://vlogvaquita.com/international-save-the-vaquita-day-2014/. And if you can’t make it to one of these tables, there will be a Tweetstorm going on tomorrow; all you have to do is write a tweet that includes the hashtags “#SaveTheVaquita” or “#ISTVD” to help make them trending worldwide. If you want, you can check out @vlogvaquita for some pre-written Vaquita tweets that you can copy and paste for the Tweetstorm.

Thanks to everyone who plans on participating in ISTVD and a huge round of applause to all of the organizers!

List of Events & Locations:

UNITED STATES

CALIFORNIA
Long Beach, CA
Aquarium of the Pacific

Monterey, CA
American Cetacean Society – Museum of Monterey, Custom House Plaza

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Point Vicente Interpretive Center

San Diego, CA (4 sites)
• Cabrillo National Monument, Pt. Loma
• Living Coast Discovery Center, Chula Vista
• SD Natural History Museum, Balboa Park
• Tecolote Shores, South, Mission Bay Park

San Pedro, CA
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Santa Cruz, CA
Save The Whales – Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center

ARIZONA
Biosphere 2 (10 am to 2 pm), Tucson

HAWAII – OAHU
Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, Kapolei
Waikiki Aquarium, Honolulu

OREGON
Oregon Coast Aquarium, Newport

VIRGINIA
Virginia Aquarium, Virginia Beach

AUSTRALIA
Southern Cross University, East Lismore, NSW
Community Center, Byron Bay, NSW

AUSTRIA
Vienna

CHINA
Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, Hong Kong

MEXICO
Dr. Jorge Urban – Estudiantes Somemna, La Paz

NETHERLANDS
Warnsveld, Gelderland

Thanks to William Whittenbury and the Muskwa Club for arranging many of these locations & making the map below.

Map View of International Save The Vaquita Day 2014

¡VIVA Vaquita!

*The Muskwa Club has also accepted their offer: http://vivavaquita.org/aboutus.html!

It all started on August 8th, 2010, when I was 10 years old. At the time, I had a really strong fascination with Sperm Whales. I was looking for a way to symbolically adopt one, which led me to the Save the Whales website. In the top right corner of the page, I noticed a picture of a little gray porpoise that said “Help Save the Vaquita!!! The World’s Most-Endangered Cetacean.” I had heard of the Vaquita before from one of my marine mammal field guides, and I remember loving how they looked. But I had no idea they were endangered. I started to read about this mysterious creature called the Vaquita. Something about it evoked an emotion that I had rarely felt before. A mix of fear, curiosity, vulnerability, sadness, and determination. I could not believe it was so rare, and that is was still decreasing. How could this be happening? I knew that I had to help it.

I scrolled down and clicked on the link to ¡VIVA Vaquita!, where I was captivated even more. I entered this into the contact box, “How much money is usually donated? Is $30 good? And can I learn more about vaquitas? Thanks!” A few days later, I received a package from Dr. Thomas Jefferson, containing a bunch of things to help me learn about the Vaquita, such as some brochures and a magazine that focused on them. I was hooked. A little over a year later, on September 27th, 2011, I started the website that you are reading this post on. I have always been obsessed with ¡VIVA Vaquita! and look up to them like a celebrity, which they are, in my eyes.

They are the world’s leading Vaquita conservation group, and their work is unparalleled in the activism community. That is why their email to me last night completely shocked me. They invited V-log to become an official member of ¡VIVA Vaquita! I hope our new partnership will create some amazing new opportunities, and I will be sure to keep everyone updated. I would like to thank ¡VIVA Vaquita! again for continuous inspiration and for asking me to join their incredible organization!

In other news, the Muskwa Club will have some big announcements coming within the next few months, so stay tuned.

VIVA Vaquita

How to draw a Vaquita

I have been doing a lot of Vaquita artwork recently, so much, in fact, that I have developed a method for drawing this little porpoise. I have created a “How-to-draw a Vaquita” guide for all of you artists out there that are looking to make some Vaquita art. Obviously, this is not a definitive guide, it is just how I draw Vaquitas.

Before anything, you need to figure out exactly what you want the picture to be. You can base your drawing/painting on a photograph, but in this guide I will be drawing a generic Vaquita that can be used for any pose. All I will be using is a pencil and my fingertip.

1. Firstly, you need to draw a rough outline of the body. This needs to be very light. Don’t worry about it not being perfectly smooth yet. Don’t draw any external details, such as stripes or eye-patches. Just the outline. This will take a lot of practice to get right, so don’t give up if you need to erase the outline 10 or more times. A very useful tip is that the mouth is always smiling and pointed directly at the eye, which is slightly above the imaginary horizontal center line of the head.

Step 1

2. Next you will start adding detail. I prefer to start with the face and work towards the tail fluke. It is very useful to look at a bunch of photographs to get a good idea of what their individual body parts look like. The key points on the head are the eye-patch, mouth-patch, chin-to-flipper stripe, and the tiny ear hole, which is commonly forgotten. Also, begin the dark back, which is basically an extension of the mouth-patch.

Step 2

3. Take this time to make sure your pencil is very sharp. Redefine all of the details you already made, especially shadows. When you are coloring the back and flipper, make sure you rub the paper very hard with your fingertip to make the texture smoother. Now you can add the lighter gray to the face simply by rubbing, due to the excess lead on your finger. You can also add shading to the underside of the body with the rubbing technique, and the shine on the back by erasing lightly. You can also use the eraser to add subtle touches to the facial pattern, such as a ring around the eye-patch. Don’t forget to show hints of finger bones in the flipper. It is important that you know where the light source is coming from. In this case, the “sun” is above and to the right of the Vaquita, so I have the dark shading on the opposite sides of the light source (bottom left) of every curve. This is especially noticeable on the flipper.

Step 3

4. Next you need to work on the body. Use the same technique as the head: draw then rub. Make sure you are still looking at some pictures to get an idea of the color pattern. Vaquitas have a dark back, with light gray sides fading to a white belly. Make sure you continue the shine by erasing lightly, as well as drawing subtle muscles. Your fingertip should be pitch black as you are working on this. Next, you can work on the dorsal fin as well as any scars or markings for additional realism.

Step 4

Step 5

5. The final step is the tail stock and fluke. Pay close attention to the muscles and ridges of the tail stock, because the shading and lighting is crucial to making it seem real and 3-dimensional. There is a ridge along the vertebrae called a dorsal ridge, as well as a caudal keel, which is a ridge on the side of the tail stock connecting to the fluke. The fluke is basically flat, giving it a more uniform color than other body parts. When you are done with this, take a few minutes to overview the entire drawing. Squint, turn it upside down, take a photo of it, or ask someone else what they think; anything to help get a new perspective of the overall work of art. When you feel like you are completely content with your drawing, breathe a sigh of relief: you drew a Vaquita! Obviously your second try will be better than your first, third better than second, and so on, so stay patient. And of course, I would love to see your masterpiece! Please send your drawings to me at gl.tamarin123@gmail.com, as always.

Step 6

Here is my finished piece.

Finished

#SaveTheVaquita Tweetstorm recap

Were you one of the hundreds and hundreds of people who participated in the #SaveTheVaquita Tweetstorm last night? If so, thank you so much, and if not, you can still tweet the hashtag #SaveTheVaquita to help!

The Tweetstorm was an outstanding success! I can’t believe how many people wrote about the Vaquita in one night! We got over 1,500 tweets (not even including retweets) with the hashtag #SaveTheVaquita, and countless more people read those tweets. We were getting about 250 tweets per hour! People are still tweeting as you read this! You can read all of the #SaveTheVaquita tweets here: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23SaveTheVaquita&src=typd&f=realtime.

Seeing as many of the #SaveTheVaquita tweeters have thousands of followers, the viewership was literally exponential. My aunt coincidentally texted me saying that she saw a Vaquita tweet (she knows about it from my book), and little did she know that it was because of a Tweetstorm that I helped create! If my aunt, who had no idea about the Tweetstorm before our conversation, saw a tweet about the Vaquita, who knows how many other people did! Some famous people in the cetacean world joined the storm, such as @jeffrey_ventre and @Sam10k, both former SeaWorld trainers turned anti-captivity, who are in the revolutionary documentary Blackfish.

Unfortunately, the hashtag did not go trending worldwide, though it likely did locally in multiple locations. When I started to type in the hashtag, #SaveTheVaquita was one of the first suggestions, meaning it was very popular last night. I just want to thank everyone who tweeted for the world’s most endangered marine mammal, especially the people who tweeted more than once (you know who you are), because you really made a difference! Muskwa and I are already planning the next Tweetstorm!

Thank You