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US Navy Dolphins Reassigned to Save Vaquitas

Source: The Verge/Rachel Becker - January 5, 2017 in Adventure

US Navy Dolphins Reassigned to Save Vaquitas
Photo: Brien Aho/Navy

The US Navy plans to deploy its squadron of highly trained, bomb-locating bottlenose dolphins this spring. But the dolphins won’t be using their sonar for their usual missions of hunting down underwater mines or warding off enemy swimmers. Instead, the dolphins will be searching out their tiny, highly endangered relatives called vaquitas in an effort to conserve the last of these rapidly disappearing porpoises.

There are less than 60 vaquitas left in the world, living in the slice of ocean called the Gulf of California that splits the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. Over the last two decades, they’ve been driven to near extinction — drowned by the gillnets that poachers use to catch a giant fish called the totoaba. The totoaba is also critically endangered and prized in China for its swim bladder used in traditional Chinese medicine, according to Ben Goldfarb for Environment 360.

The US and Mexican Navies as well as scientists in both countries have partnered up to use the Navy’s bottlenose dolphins to locate vaquitas, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The plan is to capture a few vaquitas, and keep them safe until the region is free from illegal fishing.

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