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The most endangered cetaceans

Written by Steven mark

Four species are threatened with extinction, according to data from scientists and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The vaquita

The vaquita, in the Gulf of California, in 2019.

Nature conservationists are convinced: the vaquita, or Pacific porpoise, should be the next species to disappear from the face of the globe. Its population numbers in fact only 10 to 20 individuals, refugees in the lagoons of the Sea of ​​Cortés, in Baja California. If he has suffered for many years from pollution from boat engines and oil prospecting in this part of Mexico, he is about to die of another evil: driftnets that are not intended for him. Posed by poachers, they actually target the totoaba, a fish prized by Chinese medicine and sold on the black market at astronomical prices. Scientists predict that the last vaquitas will disappear in 2022. A collateral victim of the greed.

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The North Atlantic Right Whale

The North Atlantic Right Whale.

For a long time, right whales were the privileged prey of cetacean fishermen. Massive, slow, living near the coast, they had everything to appeal to hunters for oil and animal feed. For decades, they have been protected. Except that they have the bad idea of ​​living in one of the busiest marine areas in the world: the east coast of the United States. In the migrations which take them from the Gulf of Maine to Florida, they regularly collide with ships, when they do not get caught in the anchorages of crab pots. Boat speed has been reduced, systems without moorings have been invented. But nothing seems to help. The population is estimated to number between 300 and 400 individuals and their number continues to decline.

The dolphin of Yangzi

The Yangtze River Dolphin.

Placing Baiji – its Chinese name – on this list is almost incantatory thought. Because if the IUCN still classifies the mammal in the category of animals in “Critical danger of extinction”, everything suggests that it is purely and simply extinct, defeated by industrialization and hydroelectric dams. In 1997, Chinese naturalists found 13 more of these freshwater dolphins in the Blue River. But the last of them seems to have disappeared in 2002. Since then, Baji has indeed been the subject of a few reports, but they have never been confirmed. As for the scientific campaign conducted in 2006, it came back empty-handed. Chinese authorities have promised IUCN to launch a research program to definitively confirm or deny its extinction. No date has been specified.

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Steven mark

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