OKC ZOO HELPS SAVE “LITTLE” PORPOISE

Outpouring of Care and Support Brings Endangered Porpoise Closer to Safe Waters

When just 30 animals of a specific species are left in the world, the zoo and aquarium communities accredited through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are compelled to act. The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has partnered with 80 other AZA-accredited institutions to help save the vaquita (Vah-KEE-tah) porpoise from extinction. Vaquitas, or “little cows” in Spanish, are the smallest and most endangered cetacean in the world.

These cultural organizations have contributed $660,000 to date toward the Vaquita Rescue Effort, which needs $1.2 million for immediate action efforts and $4 million for the overall rescue project. The Zoo has pledged $5,000 from its Round Up for Conservation emergency intervention funds, collected from Zoo guests who volunteer to “round up” to the next dollar amount on purchases made at the Zoo.

“Without these combined rescue efforts, the vaquita will soon be extinct,” said Dr. Rebecca Snyder, Zoo curator of conservation, science and research. “We are fortunate to have these funds from our home-base conservation effort for emergencies such as the Vaquita Rescue Effort.”

Vaquita can easily become entangled and subsequently drown in illegal gill nets used to illegally catch other species, including the endangered totoaba fish, found off the coasts of the northwestern corner of the Gulf of California, Mexico. The fish’s swim bladder is used in traditional Chinese medicine. In addition to securing funds, AZA is teaming up with other conservation organizations to capture the remaining vaquita and place them in sea pens to try to establish a protected assurance colony.”

The Zoo is a founding member of the AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program and the vaquita is one of the 10 signature SAFE species. AZA institutions have played a key role in bringing back other species from the verge of extinction by establishing protective housing and breeding programs, such as for the California condor, Arabian oryx, golden lion tamarin and American bison. This expertise provided by AZA members is very valuable to the Vaquita Rescue Effort. The Zoo has other SAFE species in its animal collection, including the Asian elephant, gorilla, cheetah and shark.

Donations on behalf of the Vaquita Rescue Project can be through the Zoo by calling the ZOOfriends’ office at (405) 425-0612. For more information on vaquitas and how you can help in the Vaquita Rescue Effort, visit www.aza.org and www.aza.org/assets.

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