Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo has pledged a donation of $2,000 to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) effort to save a small species of porpoise whose numbers have been decimated by gillnetting. The combined contribution of zoos across the nation has raised more than $600,000 to save this imperiled animal. The vaquita porpoise, whose name means “Little Cow,” is the most endangered of the world’s 128 marine mammal species. Gillnetting uses walls of netting to target a particular fish, in this case the totoaba, but vaquitas often get tangled in the nets and drown.
Despite the heroic efforts of the Mexican government to protect vaquitas in the northernmost part of the Gulf of California, emergency action is needed to temporarily remove some of the remaining animals and create a safe haven for them. In 1997, there were an estimated 567 vaquitas remaining, according to an AZA study. A more recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found fewer than 60 vaquitas left. Today, it is believed that fewer than 30 vaquitas remain.