Can Drones Save Endangered Animals?
Not to sound overly dramatic, but every look in the dark-circled eyes of vaquita porpoise may be the last one: meet the world’s most rare marine mammal, which is on the very brink of extinction just a little over half a century since being discovered. Today, only about 60 vaquita porpoises swim in the waters of the Gulf of California, their only habitat, which may go from UNESCO protected area to the World Heritage in Danger by next year.
The Gulf of California boasts an extraordinary diversity of marine life, including many species of reef fish, sharks, whales, marine turtles and critically endangered species like vaquita and totoaba. It is quite an effort to create protected areas within the Gulf, as unfortunately for the abundant wildlife, it just happens to be the most important fisheries region in Mexico. The area’s beautiful beaches and colorful reefs also attract flocks of tourists and sport fishing enthusiasts.
Although Mexican authorities have taken a string of measures, praised by the environmentalists, the threat remains. After the banning of night fishing and gill nets, Mexico’s government has recently launched drones in a last-ditch effort to prevent illegal fishing, the primary cause led to the near extinction of the vaquita. The thing is, vaquita’s fate is linked to another critically endangered species, totoaba, which is illegally caught for swim bladders and the question remains open: ‘Will the measures stand a chance against demand for a delicacy at the price of extinction?’