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Vaquita population drops to 60; scientists ponder captive breeding!

However, as per the scientists, this procedure would be highly risky and is probably a desperate effort to save the porpoise population.


Vaquita population drops to 60; scientists ponder captive breeding!
Image courtesy: Oceanfdn.org

New Delhi: The pace at which species who are a part of marine life are approaching the endangered list is horrifying.

One of the species that are nearly within the radar of extinction is the Vaquita Porpoise, also known as the Panda of the sea, and their population's decline has marine scientists concerned.

Today, the world is home to only 60 vaquita's. Statistics reveal that the world's smallest porpoise has seen its population drop by 92 percent in less than 20 years in Mexico’s Gulf of California as they suffocate to death one-by-one in gillnets.

The declining vaquita species have made scientists at the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) contemplate a once inconceivable option, that is, captive breeding.

However, as per the scientists, this procedure would be highly risky and is probably a desperate effort to save the porpoise population.

Barbara Taylor, one of the world’s foremost experts on the vaquita with NOAA, told The Guardian that, “We have no idea whether it is feasible to find, capture and maintain vaquitas in captivity much less whether they will reproduce. The uncertainties are large.”

Captive breeding basically points at putting the dolphins in breeding pens, either in coastal waters or elsewhere.

Although the scientists were aware of the major fall in vaquita population over the two decades, they restrained themselves to pull them out of their natural habitat. This is primarily because, the scientists were afraid that any captured vaquitas would perish quickly outside of their habitat. And even if they miraculously survive, trying to force a pair of vaquita to mate and produce a healthy calf under captive conditions would possibly require lots of trial and error – and there aren’t many vaquita left to bargain with.

In December, however, as the porpoise numbers dropped further, scientists realised that all conservation options needed to be considered.

The Associated Press quoted Omar Vidal, the head of the Mexico office of the World Wildlife Fund, the WWF, who said that, “Capturing vaquitas to breed them would be far too risky and is not a viable option. With only around 60 vaquitas left, we simply cannot gamble with killing some while experimenting. Every single vaquita counts! I see no other way to save this porpoise than by focusing all efforts and resources in eliminating its accidental deaths in fishing activities.”

The option of captive breeding is only being considered as of now, which means that the main plan of action is simply to begin studying the idea. This is because, as per The Guardian, the scientists don’t want discussion of captive breeding to undermine Mexico’s resolve in what they say is the real battle today: banning gillnets and fighting the illegal trade in totoaba fish.  

From Zee News

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