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These Shy “Pandas of the Sea” May All Be Dead by Next Year

Without serious conservation efforts the survival of the 30 or so vaquita porpoises left in the wild is in jeopardy. 2018 could see the extinction of these mammals.

These Shy “Pandas of the Sea” May All Be Dead by Next Year

[DIGEST: WWF, SciAlert, Phys, SciAlert, MolEcol, WWFMexico, ConservBiol, Quartz, PLOS]

Serious conservation efforts are vital to the survival of 30 or so vaquita porpoises. Sometimes called the “smiley-faced pandas of the sea” due to the dark outlines around their mouth and the black circles around their eyes, these are all that remain in the wild. Scientists predict the species could be extinct by 2018. Native to the upper Gulf of California, their global population has plummeted by 90 percent in the last six years. Ten years ago, when the baiji, or Chinese river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer), became extinct due to over hunting and pollution, researchers estimated the vaquita population at 500 individuals, making them the most endangered cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in the world.

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