Save the Vaquita: Mexico's desert porpoise
Your Subtitle text
About the Vaquita
Save The Vaquita is a conservation organization (applying for non-profit status) that is dedicated to save the world's most endangered cetacean the Vaquita (Phocoena sinus). The Vaquita is the smallest cetacean, adults weighing up to 55 kg (120 lbs). This species is a non-migratory animal and has the most limited distribution of any marine, restricted to the northwestern corner of the Gulf of California.

Habitat: The vaquita lives in shallow lagoons along the shoreline. It is usually found in waters 10 - 28 m (33 - 92') deep within 25 km (16 mi) from shore, although it can survive in lagoons so shallow that its back protrudes above the water. Other characteristics of its habitat are strong tidal mixing and high productivity of the aquatic plant and animal communities.

Geographical Range: The vaquita has the smallest geographic range of any marine mammal, approximately a 900 square mile area (less than 1/5 the size of metropolitan Los Angeles) in the very northern area of the Gulf of California in Mexico.

Diet: All of the 17 fish species that have been found in vaquita stomachs can be classified as demersal and/or benthic species inhabiting relatively shallow water in the upper Gulf of California. The vaquita is a rather non-selective feeder on small fish and squid. Squid remains were also found in several stomach samples.

Behavior: The vaquita appears to swim and feed in a leisurely manner, but it is elusive and will avoid boats of any kind. It rises to breathe with a slow, forward-rolling movement that barely disturbs the surface of the water, and then disappears quickly, often for a long time.  The vaquita uses high-frequency clicks for echolocation. Vaquita's are generally solitary animals unless accompanied by a calf.

Social Organization: The vaquita occurs singly or in small groups. One report indicated that in 58 sightings, 91 % comprised from one to three individuals, with a mean group size of 1.9 and a range of 1 - 7. Loose aggregations of vaquitas, in which they were dispersed as single individuals or as small subgroups (from two to four members, greatest number eight to ten) throughout several hundred sq m (several thousand sq ft) were also reported.

Size and weight: Length: Females - up to 1.5 m (5'); males - up to 1.4 m (4.6'). Weight: up to 55 kg (120 lb). 

Age to Maturity: Females may become sexually mature at a length of approximately 1.3 m (4.4').

Gestation Period & Birth Season/Rate: The gestation period is probably 10 - 11 months. Births are thought to occur generally around late March or early April. Female vaquita's produces 1 calf annually.

Development: A vaquita calf is weaned after two to three months. The maximum observed age is 21 years.

Population status: The most recent population census calculated there are only 150 animals remaining. The mortality rate for the vaquita is estimated at 30 animals a year killed by drowning in fishing nets. If this trend continues the species will become extinct by the year 2015. There are no vaquita's in captivity to promote captive breeding to increase the population.

The Vaquita is a non-migratory species and it has an extremely small range. The most limited of any marine cetacean, it is found in the northwestern corner of the Gulf of California. It is this limited range that is contributing to the species to be critically endangered. 

 

The vaquita is critically endangered with less than 150 animals left on the planet. The species mortality rate is high due to being trapped in fishing nets and drowning. There are reports that some animals that are alive when pulled into a fishing boat are killed and then eaten.