Every day more and more of our planet’s ecosystem is being destroyed by people who care more about short term gains rather than the future of humanity. Last year Paulo Paulino Guajajara, an indigenous leader working to protect the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil, was shot and killed by armed men who no doubt saw him as a threat to the logging industry.
The problem in South America is the same around the globe as the world’s population climbs towards eight billion and natural resources are constantly impacted by people only wanting to survive and have a decent quality of life. Amazingly the people who are aware of the complex problems every nation faces including the United States, oftentimes feel powerless when big money backed leaders of almost every country act irresponsibly when looked at in terms of the future of the planet. We truly have one earth and one time, and each one of us needs to get involved and be a part of the solution.
People of the world in every country need to come together and find a better way to move forward. Today we are not seeing the critical leadership the world needs in our hate filled capital in Washington D.C, we are not seeing that kind of leadership in other countries as well. In spite of the best efforts and passion of those holding leadership positions in the United Nations, overall most of their efforts to bring the world together are failing.
So what can we do? If you need inspiration all you need to do is look around. On almost every corner of the planet there are people from all walks of life working on the ground making a difference. Are you one of them? If not, you don’t have to continue sitting on the sidelines. Decide today to become a hero for the planet, perhaps even a super hero.
Over the past few years I have been involved in conservation efforts to save the vaquita, a species of porpoise endemic to the Gulf of California. Averaging 150 cm or 140 cm in length, it is the smallest of all living cetaceans. Today, the species is on the brink of extinction. Last year in collaboration with the Living Desert Zoo and the Aquarium of the Pacific, the El Paso Zoo sent Mexican President Obrador over 18,000 signed letters from our guests asking that he provide strong leadership for vaquita conservation efforts. The latest information we have now is how Mexico has committed resources to using photo ID to estimate the number of vaquitas surviving in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez (Upper Gulf of California).
Few people know about the emergency efforts underway to save this very small species of porpoise, found only in one small area of the Sea of Cortez in the Upper Gulf of Mexico. Vaquita numbers have decreased dramatically to less than ten animals as a result of commercial fishing in the area where they have been caught and drowned in gillnets. To help increase awareness of their plight and to encourage people to help save them, the El Paso Zoo has supported the AZA SAFE and the Vaquita Action Plan. AZA SAFE stands for “Saving Animals from Extinction” and focuses the collective expertise within our accredited zoos and aquariums and leverages their massive audiences to save species. At the same time, SAFE will build capacity to increase direct conservation spending, as well as our members’ impact on saving species through work in the field, in our zoos and aquariums, and through public engagement. We have done it before. Some species exist only because of the efforts of aquariums and zoos. They include two species currently living at the El Paso Zoo, the Mexican wolf and the Przewalski’s horse.
The vaquita lives only in the wild which makes saving it from extinction a much greater challenge compared to efforts to save other species on the brink of extinction. Before the Mexican wolf went extinct in the wild during the late 1970s, the last known wild wolves were captured in Mexico and moved to breeding facilities. It seems unlikely that such an approach would work for the vaquita since they have never survived for very long in captivity.
To help save the species from falling victim to gillnets used within the fishing industry for the capture of other species, Mexico and United States have committed to intensify bilateral cooperation to protect the critically endangered vaquita marina porpoise, including through the following actions:
• Mexico will make permanent a ban on the use of gillnets in all fisheries throughout the range of the vaquita in the upper Gulf of California;
• Both countries will increase cooperation and enforcement efforts to immediately halt the illegal fishing for and illegal trade in totoaba swim bladders;
• Both countries will redouble efforts, in collaboration with international experts, to develop alternative fishing gear to gillnets that does not result in the entanglement of vaquita and establish “vaquita-safe” fisheries; and
• Both countries will establish and implement a long-term program to remove and permanently dispose of illegal and derelict fishing gear from vaquita habitat in the upper Gulf of California.
To help save the vaquita zoo guests are encouraged to:
Story reprinted from the El Paso Zoo Conservation Education Blog – Follow the El Paso Zoo Conservation Education blog for updates on all of the Zoo’s conservation efforts. The simple act of following this blog is an easy way to show your support for conservation in El Paso and around the world.
If there ever was a time for all 7 billion of us to find a way to become united like never before, that time is now. During this pandemic and in the years ahead everyone of us needs to stay engaged, no matter how difficult. We only have one time to make a difference for our children and future generations, and that time is now. Yes, I am an eternal optimist and I will always dream and hope for a peaceful world where all life is respected and people live in harmony.
Over the past six weeks I have been very fortunate to be able stay working and to telecommute from home. Not everyone has this opportunity and I am blessed. My main focus is keeping my team engaged with our community in every possible way by blogging about our animals and our conservation efforts and offering free distant learning programs.
You can be a part of and support our efforts by simply following our blog with your email address. And if you want to help in other ways simply let me know by sending me a text or dropping me an email. It would be great to catch up on the phone someday too, just let me know.