There are only 10 vaquita pigs left, but the species can be saved

Animals – there are only about ten animals left in the world. The Vaquita porpoise, the world’s smallest whale, is one of the rarest marine mammals on the planet. These animals live in a limited geographical area (the shoals of the upper Gulf of California in the western United States), are naturally rare, and their population has not exceeded a few thousand over the past few years. Today they are only ten.

However, with such a small population, scientists have hypothesized that mammals present a risk of inbreeding and thus harmful mutations. These could inevitably lead to the extinction of species Phocoena sinus.

But really, no. Researchers from the University of California (UCLA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Fisheries Administration (NOAA) and other institutes have made a happy discovery. In fact, vaquita pigs still have enough genetic diversity that they can breed and reproduce the species, if allowed. The results of this research were published in the journal Science May 5.

Technically they can survive

The discovery by the researchers is the result of work analyzing the genomes of 20 vaquita pigs, using tissue samples collected by Mexican researchers between 1985 and 2017. This in particular has helped them better understand the recent history of this animal.

“Genomics gives us clues about a species’ past, but it also allows us to look into the future,” says Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, co-author of the current study. In fact, genetic analysis using computer simulations allowed us to guess how the population would behave under the different scenarios shown in the graph below.

If we can allow these animals to survive, they can do the rest. Genetically speaking, they still have the diversity that has allowed them to thrive,” agrees Jacqueline Robinson, another head of the study. “Despite the small number, the species can recover if we stop killing them,” Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho resumes. very) on this type.

Hunting, the factor of extinction

Researchers say that to give vaquita pigs a chance, it is necessary to promptly and completely eliminate fishing mortality using gillnets. This method involves placing flat nets suspended vertically in the water.

Stretching like giant tennis nets, they are known to be a death trap for many animals that were never meant to be caught. This is the case for the vaquita. They are 1.2-1.5 m long, often intertwined and sunk.

Initially, these nets were used to catch tutuaba, a fish highly prized in China for its potential “medicinal properties” and which could be resold at exorbitant prices on the black market. For this reason, it is also listed as endangered, being included in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

In an effort to stem the hemorrhage of biodiversity, Mexico has banned the fishing of tapir fish as well as the use of gillnets in the Gulf of California. But this does not prevent the continuation of poaching. Faced with this observation, researcher Christopher Kyriazis and UCLA study member state: “If we lose them, it will be the result of our human choices.”

See also on HuffPost: Environment: France has already reached the day of its overextension

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