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    Scientists spot six near-extinct vaquita marinas

    MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Scientists said on Monday they have spotted six vaquita marinas, one of the most endangered animals on Earth, off the coast of Mexico, reviving hopes for the survival of the world’s smallest porpoise.

    The vaquita has been nearly wiped out by illegal fishing in its native habitat, the Gulf of California, and the World Wildlife Fund warned last year that it could soon go extinct.

    “This research work is extremely important to show the world that vaquitas are still alive and strong,” said Eva Hidalgo, Scientific Coordinator for the conservation group Sea Shepherd.

    Scientists estimate there may be as few as 30 vaquitas left.

    The latest search for the elusive porpoises was carried out from August 19 to September 3, the researchers said in a statement. A similar project in October last year also spotted six vaquitas.

    “To see vaquitas alive is a relief and shows that we must continue to protect the species,” said Head of the Mexican Vaquita Research Programme Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho.

    The vaquita is known as the “panda of the sea” for the distinctive black circles around its eyes.

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