According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the rate of species extinction is 100-1,000 times higher than natural due to human activities.

In order to highlight this, the WWF has directed its efforts towards ‘Flagship’ and ‘footprint impacted’ species.A Flagship species is one of a very few iconic animals that provide a focus for awareness, whereas footprint-impacted species belong to a group whose populations are threatened because of human activity.

Their efforts are normally associated with such well known breeds as elephants and tigers. But there is also one very localised and little known species that the WWF are fighting hard to preserve. That is the ‘vaquita’ (Phocoena sinus).

The vaquita, also known as the cochito or the Gulf of California porpoise, lives in the upper Gulf or California, Mexico. It is the world’s smallest and most endangered small marine cetacean (aquatic mammal). It is estimated that only around 150 of them are left.

The vaquita is dark grey and the smallest of the cetaceans growing to about 1.5 metres in length and 120lb in weight. It also looks a bit like a porpoise but the fins are longer.

Many of these creatures have been killed every year by fishing nets deployed to catch other species. In response Mexico has established a refuge and eliminated the use of shrimp trawls and gillnets in the area. The aim is to reduce the net fatalities of the vaquita from 40-80 a year down into into single figures, hopefully just one.

Its habitat is limited to a relatively small area of the planet in the tropical upwelling of the upper Gulf of Mexico (The Sea of Cortez) so any slight change there will have a massive impact on this small community of little known animals.

Let’s hope that the WWF can help keep this species off the extinct list.

More information can be found here, together with ideas on how you can help.

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