Encounter With World’s Rarest Ocean Mammal Thrills Scientists
Fewer than 100 vaquitas—an elusive porpoise found only in the Sea of Cortez—are left on Earth.
Scientists feared they were on a grim mission. Biologists searching Mexico's Sea of Cortez for the world's most endangered marine mammal—a tiny porpoise called the vaquita—worried they might already be too late.
As few as 97 vaquitas remained on Earth last year. With poachers and fishermen accidentally snaring them in nets, scientists suspected this elusive creature’s race to extinction might have accelerated.
(Read: "Can Vaquita Porpoises Be Saved?")
Yet last week, while cruising through glassy water on a research boat off Baja California, the world’s leading vaquita experts from the United States and Mexico spotted first one, then another, through binoculars. A few days later, several of the shy mammals were seen once again. There could be no doubt.
"It was incredible;