We Probably Can’t Save the Vaquita—But We Can Learn From Them

Save the Vaquita Day is the first Saturday after the 4th of July, and it serves as a reminder that preventing extinctions means acting early.
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Sources:
Vaquita:
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/conl.12331
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/vaquita-porpoise-mexico-extinction/545204
https://www.vaquitacpr.org/
http://www.jstor.org/stable/4621011?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.98191.x
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2907.2006.00088.x
Amur Leopard:
https://academic.oup.com/jhered/article/93/5/303/2187228
https://www.companimalmed.com/article/S1938-9736(13)00081-0/abstract
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/zoo/sd-me-amur-leopard-cubs-zoo-20180601-story.html
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/amur-leopard-population-triples-to-103/#jCp
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071023081613.htm
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5aec/636a15c7c4fc91f4dac4f52cf9ed09f6c0f1.pdf
Javan Rhino:
http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/19495/0
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10592-006-9139-4
https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article-abstract/76/2/335/958233
https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Wxu7Ybou0qsC&oi=fnd&pg=PA89&dq=javan rhino&ots=OingA2uYE4&sig=fwbNUv4DtFx57EphPSqYzjQYGI4#v=onepage&q=javan rhino&f=false
Other:
http://cmsdocs.s3.amazonaws.com/summarystats/2017-3_Summary_Stats_Page_Documents/2017_3_RL_Stats_Table_3a.pdf [PDF]
http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/5/e1400253.full
http://cmsdocs.s3.amazonaws.com/summarystats/2017-3_Summary_Stats_Page_Documents/2017_3_RL_Stats_Table_1.pdf

Images:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thylacinus.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edwards'_Dodo.jpg
https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/cartoon-cute-animals-vector-set-hand-drawn-style-gm512107742-86988065
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vaquita4_Olson_NOAA.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gulf_of_California.jpg
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/flying-fish-trapped-in-fishing-net-gm177028837-19987555
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leopard-digitalART.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amur_Leopard_distribution.PNG
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amur_Leopard_Panthera_pardus_orientalis_Facing_Forward_1761px.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rhinoceros_sondaicus_in_London_Zoo.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Javan_Rhino_Range.svg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aren_pinna_070612_042_stgd.jpg
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Caption: [music]. who among us would not have loved to . catch a glimpse of the shy doglike . tasmanian tiger at night or seen the . impressively tubby dodo waddling along. but we can't these stunning creatures . are now extinct because of us today is . international save the vaquita day where . people around the world are hoping to . make a last stand against extinction . this is because while extinction does . happen naturally scientists estimate. that our actions have sped up the rate . of died out by 100 times or more right . now there are more than 25,000 species . considered vulnerable and danger d'or . critically endangered like the vaquita . an adorable tiny little porpoise and . whether you like it or not we can't save . all of those and that probably includes . the vaquita but hopefully by looking at . species on the brink we can learn how to . keep others from reaching that point of . no return the vaquita should be found . swimming in the gulf of california in . mexico but if you want to jump in a boat . in the hopes of spotting one you're out . of luck conservationists estimate that . there are less than 30 left . that's because between 1997 and . their numbers dropped by 92% at this . rate they will be gone within a decade . perhaps even by the end of this year vic . ita's were listed as vulnerable in 1986 . because of their limited range and the . threat posed by gill net fishing that's . a style of fishing where large vertical . nets are hung in the water to ensnare . animals as they attempt to push through . the mesh because of their small size and . similar size to the fish that the . fishermen are actually trying to catch . vaquita is often end up entangled too in . 1990 their status was changed to . endangered and then to critically. endangered in 1996 despite that early . warning . it wasn't until 2005 that the mexican . government created a refuge where gill . nets are banned and that wasn't enough . to stop the decline so in 2013 . incentives were given to switch shrimp . fishermen to trawling instead and a. temporary gill net ban was enacted in. 2015 which was made permanent in 2017 . the problem is illegal gill net fishing. continues to this day because total abha . a type of fish that are also critically . endangered fetch a high price on the . black market so in a last-ditch effort . to save the vaquita scientists have been . trying to catch them and put them in a . special protective . sanctuary for captive breeding but . things are not going well so far one . female even died in the process plus . there's concern that there are already . just too few of them to have enough . genetic diversity that's a measure of . how much variation there is in the dna . of a species and it's important for . avoiding the health consequences of . inbreeding captive breeding can be . somewhat successful like it has with the . amore leopard but even then there are . challenges the amore leopard is a . subspecies that used to roam around . southeastern russia the korean peninsula . and northeastern china until poachers . shot nearly all of them for their . gorgeous thick spotted fur surveys in . the late 1990s estimated that between 25 . and 40 or more leopards were left that. ultimately led to the russian government . stepping in by creating a massive. protected area called a land of the . leopard national park in 2012 and just . giving the leopards enough space has. brought their numbers up some officials . announced that there were 84 adults in . the wild in early 2018 which is great . except that some geneticists fear their . two inbred to truly recover . luckily captive breeding has been. effective as more than 220 or more . leopards live in institutions worldwide . there's just one catch and it's a pretty . big one from a genetics point of view . they are not purebred amor leopards the . captive population started with just 9 . wild leopards two of which were most . likely a similar looking chinese . subspecies and that injection of . non-relatives . means the captive population actually. has more variation in its dna than a . wild one but they're not exactly a moor . leopards anymore some geneticists would . argue there's something new which is . what makes this kind of interbreeding . even for conservation extremely . controversial. if the captive bred leopards are. reintroduced to the wild population pure . amor leopards could disappear completely . but if they're kept separate the wild . population may not recover at all or . maybe two in bred to be viable long-term . it's a tough call either way the . leopards are lucky though that they've. got some room for growth in that big . park . javan rhinos are in a similar position . but they don't have that luxury wu zhong . coolin national park in indonesia has 40 . to 60 rhinos poaching for horns was one . of the biggest factors in the species . demise but now there are rhino . protection units patrolling the park to. protect them the problem is yugyeong . coolin cannot fit anymore rhinos already . they're packed in so tightly that . science . fear diseases could spread quickly . enough to speed their extinction and . there are signs that that's already . happening as bacteria from nearby cattle . farms seem to be making their way into . the rhino population if that's not bad . enough there's also an invasive palm . species overtaking the rhinos preferred. food plants wreaking havoc on what. little habitat they have the situation . is so bad that scientists have admitted . that they are at an impasse they're not . sure if the rhinos can be safely . relocated even if there was somewhere. for them to go and it's not clear if . they would take two captive breeding or . what such a program would need to look . like to work or if there are already too . few of them for it to matter like with . the more leopards and the vaquita any . effort to save the rhinos might just be . too little too late these are . heartbreaking stories with a hard lesson . stopping the extinctions were causing . means acting early not waiting until. things are dire and hoping a herculean. effort will save the day perhaps if gill . nets were banned sooner vaquita wouldn't . be on the brink of extinction now or if . the land of the leopard national park. had been created decades earlier genetic . diversity wouldn't have been a concern . but conservation like lots of areas of. science is tricky partly because it's . not just about the animals protecting . species also means finding a way to . resolve conflicts between them and us . like how to make space for the job in . rhino without taking away the . livelihoods of neighboring farmers and . their families the power of hindsight . lets us see where things went wrong for . these species and it gives us clues as . to how we might avoid making the same . mistakes going forward thanks for . watching this episode of scishow while . conservation is hard and we probably. can't save everything there are some . species that we've brought back from the . brink you can learn more about them in . our episode on 7 species we have saved . from extinction. [music]. .
 

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