A World Wildlife Fund member carries a papier mache vaquita at a demonstration in Mexico City in July A World Wildlife Fund member carries a papier mache vaquita at a demonstration in Mexico City in July calling for further efforts to protect the porpoise. AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

New recovery project captures vaquita calf

But the porpoise became stressed without its mother and was later released

A vaquita porpoise was captured in the upper Gulf of California as part of the latest effort to save the endangered species but it had to be released after veterinarians decided it was too young to survive without its mother.

The new last-ditch effort aimed at the conservation, protection and recovery of the vaquita marina captured a calf estimated to be six months old. But experts said it was showing signs of stress.

Before the calf was returned to the wild specialists with the VaquitaCPR recovery project took tissue samples that scientists will analyze and share with colleagues at other research institutions, including the Frozen Zoo in San Diego, California, where the vaquita’s genome will be sequenced.

It was the first time a vaquita has been captured, and the achievement left officials optimistic.

“The successful rescue made conservation history and demonstrates that the goal of VaquitaCPR is feasible,” said Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Rafael Pacchiano Alamán.

“No one has ever captured and cared for a vaquita porpoise, even for a brief period of time. This is an exciting moment and as a result, I am confident we can indeed save the vaquita marina from extinction.”

The VaquitaCPR program director also hailed the achievement.

“While we were disappointed we could not keep the vaquita in human care, we have demonstrated that we are able to locate and capture one,” said Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho.

“We also succeeded in transporting one and conducting health evaluations that are part of our protocols for safeguarding the animals’ health,” added the scientist, who is collaborating with the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat and the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA).

Fewer than 30 specimens of the endangered porpoise are estimated to remain in the wild. The VaquitaCPR project began on October 12 and intends to capture as many adult individuals as possible and encourage them to breed.

The calf was returned to the area where it was captured and where several other vaquitas had been sighted. The research team said it had spotted several vaquitas with a visual search and using acoustic monitoring. United States Navy dolphins have been brought into the area to help with the search.

The vaquitas will be kept in floating pens at a new facility in San Felipe, Baja California.

Source: AP, El Universal (sp)

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