A recent population survey of the vaquita marina, a small porpoise species, has brought uplifting news to the world of conservation. While the study did not indicate an increase in the vaquita population, it did reveal that the decline the species had been experiencing had halted. This steady number is an optimistic sign for the survival of these remarkable marine creatures. The report, published by the International Union for Conservation (IUCN), sheds light on the critical situation faced by the vaquita and highlights the urgent need for conservation efforts.
The vaquita marina, often referred to as simply “vaquita,” is a unique species of porpoise found in the northern part of the Gulf of California. With a length of about five feet and a weight of up to 120 pounds, these marine mammals are the smallest porpoises in the world. They possess distinctive black rings around their eyes and dark patches on their lips, making them easily recognizable.
Illegal fishing practices, particularly the use of gill nets to catch totoaba fish, have pushed the vaquita population dangerously close to extinction. Totoaba swim bladder, an organ found in the fish, is highly sought after in the illegal wildlife trade, particularly in Asia, due to its perceived medicinal properties. Unfortunately, vaquitas frequently become entangled in these gill nets, unable to escape and drowning as a result. This unsustainable fishing activity has caused a devastating decline in vaquita numbers over the years.
In 2018, the vaquita population experienced a rapid decline of 45%, which raised alarm bells among conservationists worldwide. However, since then, the population has shown signs of stabilizing. The recent survey estimated a slight increase, from eight individuals to 13, although this may seem modest. The significance lies in the fact that the vaquita population is no longer plummeting towards extinction. This stabilization is an encouraging development that provides hope for the future of this remarkable species.
The decline in gill net fishing, the primary threat to vaquitas, can be attributed in part to innovative measures adopted by conservationists. One such method involves using 3-meter-tall hooks that are secured to the seafloor with concrete blocks. These hooks effectively tear up gill nets, preventing their use in illegal fishing activities. While the Mexican government’s enforcement efforts have been limited, these concrete hooks have made a substantial impact in curbing gill net fishing.
Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a renowned vaquita specialist, emphasizes that if the killing of vaquitas can be stopped entirely, their population will have the opportunity to rebound. He acknowledges the need for cautious optimism, emphasizing that the battle to save these tiny porpoises is far from won. However, the recent population survey signifies the resilience of the vaquita and its ability to survive against great odds.
Alex Olivera, a senior Mexico representative at the Center for Biological Diversity, recognizes the encouraging nature of the survey results. However, he stresses that urgent conservation efforts are still required to protect the vaquita from extinction. The threats they face continue to be substantial, and without further action, the progress made so far may be overshadowed.
To ensure the survival of the vaquita marina, international cooperation, increased enforcement of fishing regulations, and public awareness campaigns are crucial. By reducing the demand for totoaba swim bladder and implementing stricter regulations on gill net fishing, we can pave the way for the vaquite population to thrive.
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Monarchs Make a Triumphant Return
Monarch butterflies are well known for their migratory patterns, traveling from the far north Pacific Northwest all the way down to Mexico and back. However, over the decades, the butterfly with bright black and orange wings has been hammered by environmental changes and declining numbers, easily gaining status as an endangered species.
This year, in October, however, Monarch butterflies made a spectacular return to Pacific Grove, clearly showing a comeback in numbers and presence. The Pacific Grove Sanctuary estimated a total of 3,823 butterflies and decided to make their way back, a massive increase over the previous year when only one butterfly showed up in 2021. In fact, in 2020, with nothing showing up, folks suddenly thought the butterflies were gone for good.
However, 2022 has clearly been one for the records, essentially throwing into question anything that was recorded in the two previous years. That’s because almost 247,250 butterflies have been tracked across the western U.S., definitely proving they are still around and in sizable numbers. Given the fact that the 2020 records only counted some 2,000 of the butterflies, one has to wonder what happened and where did they go for two years. Those who have spent a research lifetime studying the Monarch butterflies are over the moon with the results, expecting that the numbers will continue to grow again going into 2023.
Some possible explanations are that the butterflies chose not to migrate at all, instead staying in a given locale and just not moving back up the West coast as they traditionally do. Others wonder if climate changes misdirected their migratory pattern and sent the butterflies off in a different direction than before. Still other theories wonder if there is something else at work, such as a delayed hatching of the new season of butterflies that typically were annual blooms. The exact answer isn’t known at all, and nobody has a solid hypothesis to test either.
Whichever is the case with regards to the reason why, the folks at the Pacific Grove Sanctuary are just happy that the butterflies have returned again and in large numbers. Instead of dealing with a nightmare of a mass extinction, the insects have proven themselves resilient and strong enough to pull through, migrate once more, and make their presence known along the upper West Coast of the U.S. that made them famous in the first place.
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Chip and Joanna Gaines Unveil Their Amazing Restored Property
If you’ve ever tuned into the HGTV channel, you know that their priority is reality television. At HGTV, there is no show bigger than Fixer Upper. Led by hosts Joanna and Chip Gaines, Fixer Upper is all about following one family as they revitalize homes with glamorous and trendy makeovers. Of course, the show is really about how the husband-wife duo works together, and they’ve cultivated quite the following as a result. Now, in the ultimate Fixer Upper twist, we are going to head into the home that Chip and Joanna fixed for themselves!
Firefighters Save Everyone, Even Little Birds
Have you ever heard a thud against your big home or room window, looked up and then wondered what happened? Or maybe you’ve seen a black sticker silhouette of a big bird on a window that looks odd without any apparent reason. The thud or sticker both have to do with the same common issue of small birds hitting windows frequently because they can’t see and differentiate plate glass as a surface when flying. They fly and get exhausted or just don’t realize the difference of a building and then the flight mistake occurs. The bird then impacts, gets knocked out, and falls to the ground stunned.
It just happened one day that two firefighters happened to be working at their station in South Carolina one day and found a stunned hummingbird on the ground as they went outside the station. The day was hot and part of heat wave in the area common in the South at certain times of the year. The two took a closer look and found an emerald-green creature lying almost dead still on the cement, showing now sign of life. But the eyes still showed signs of life. The impact wasn’t too much of a surprise however; bird stuns are common in South Carolina has it’s a major migratory path during the month of March and October annually.
David McCain, a fire marshal, and Jobeth Holmes, a firefighter, looked at the little bird up close and quickly realized the animal needed some kind of food and water or was going to die quickly. Hummingbirds naturally have a fast metabolism and energy consumption, burning out their internal resources in minutes and hours versus days. The two had found stunned birds before and this hummingbird was either recovering from a bad flight path or just dropped from exhaustion due to the hot temperature that day. From experience the two tried a few tricks they learned over the years to bring the bird back to life. Using bottled water and some table sugar, the created a quick mix and then made it possible for the bird to drink the solution. Coaxing the bird to take in the liquid, they patiently waited minutes for a response to occur.
Sure enough, the hummingbird began to perk up and react. The sugar metabolized quickly in the bird’s digestion and its energy level spiked. The bird keep drinking a bit more and then, like a laser dart, it zipped off in a spark, looking for more food and flower nectar. The departing bird didn’t give any acknowledgement or romantic movie-like thanks, but the two firefighters knew they had done a good deed in the grand scheme of life.
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