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Navy-Trained War Dolphins to Help Search and Capture Highly Endangered Vaquitas

Jan 05, 2017 09:11 AM EST
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The United States Navy has confirmed that they will lend their highly-trained war dolphins to help conservation groups and the Mexican government to locate and capture the critically endangered vaquitas.
(Photo : Brien Aho/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

The United States Navy has confirmed that they will lend their highly-trained war dolphins to help conservation groups and the Mexican government to locate and capture the critically endangered vaquitas.

According to the report from The Verge, the U.S. Navy planes to deploy four of their bottleneck dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico this coming spring. These dolphins were highly trained and usually use their sonar to hunt down underwater mines and enemy divers. However, the present mission of dolphins will not require them to do such things. Instead, the dolphins will be used to search out the world's smallest porpoise and rarest marine mammal.

For the mission, the dolphins will be released in the Gulf from a boat. They will then start their underwater search for the vaquitas. Once the dolphins spotted their tiny relative, they will resurface and return back to the boat where they were launched. The dolphins will then guide to the place where it spotted vaquitas.

The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita is still looking for definite ways on how to spot, capture and safely relocate the porpoises. The plan is to temporarily house the captured vaquitas to a protected section of the Gulf, dubbed as Sea of Cortez, where they might be able to safely breed.

However, the current plan to capture and relocate the vaquitas could be highly dangerous. Experts noted that the tiny marine mammal was never been held in captivity before, making the plan extremely risky and a potential driver to the extinction of the marine species.

Vaquita, Phocoena sinus, is the world's rarest marine mammal. Listed as Critically Endangered, Vaquita's population only has fewer than 60 individuals left. One of the main factors contributing to the decline in Vaquita population is the use of gillnets. Poachers used this gillnets to capture the critically endangered totoaba. The vaquita could get caught and entangled in the gillnets, which results to their death.

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