With a length of just 5 feet long and weighing just 120 pounds, the world’s smallest porpoise bears a name that is a Spanish word meaning “little cow.” The Vaquita is the rarest marine mammal in the world with only 30 animals thought to be found in the wild. Vaquita are found exclusively in the waters of the northern Gulf of California – located between the Baja peninsula and the mainland of Mexico. The little porpoise is so rare in fact, that they were only discovered in 1958.
In addition to being famous for their small size, they are unfortunately famous for being the world’s most endangered cetacean (the animal group that includes whales, porpoises and dolphins). The biggest threat to Vaquita is their entrapment in gill nets that are used to catch large fish such as Tatoaba – another endangered species found in the same waters. Even though international trade of Tatoaba is banned, there is still a high demand for them in China where Tatoaba’s swim bladders are considered a delicacy. The fish are illegally caught and smuggled out of Mexico, often through the United States, and into China where they are sold for thousands of dollars on the black market.