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Rescuing the Vaquita from Extinction

The elusive vaquita marina (Francisco Valverde)

Sea Shepherd and their aging former U.S. Coast Guard cutter, the Farley Mowat, have just completed a four-month mission called Operation Milagro (Miracle) to save the vaquita. They fought a 24/7 battle against gill nets, longlines and the fishermen who deploy them. With a nearly all-volunteer crew of 16, they patrol a vaquita refuge set up by the Mexican government in 2005. Using dragging tools fashioned from the anchors of the illegal nets, they scour the sea day and night pulling up anything they can find, including large gill nets and longlines. WildAid was invited on-board the Farley Mowat to experience and document what Sea Shepherd is doing in the fight to save this unique species.

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Galapagos Islands Have the Largest Shark Biomass in the World

A group of hammerhead sharks swims over the sandy seafloor populated with garden eels at Darwin Island. These sharks are known for their ability to make sudden and sharp turns as the unique wide-set placement of their eyes allows them a vertical 360-degree view, which is ideal for stalking their prey. (Enric Sala/ National Geographic for National Geographic Pristine Seas)

In a study published this week, scientists from the National Geographic Society and Charles Darwin Research Station found that Darwin and Wolf in the Galapagos Islands is home to the world's largest shark biomass (the total mass of sharks in a given area) in the world.

This is especially welcome news as sharks continue to be hunted for the shark fin trade — with an estimated 73 million sharks killed annually. According to lead author Pelayo Salinas de Leon, "[T]he islands of Darwin and Wolf are jewels in the crown of the Galapagos,” due to the abundance of these top predators indicating a healthy marine ecosystem. 

However, the two-year study funded by Helmsley Charitable Trust also found that reef fish in the area have been severely reduced due to overfishing. To protect its marine life, the Ecuadorian government created a marine sanctuary at Darwin and Wolf in March.

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Can Reefs Survive Coral Bleaching?

Parrotfish in the Gardens of the Queen (Noel Lopez Fernandez)

Scientists in Australia recently announced that more than 90% of coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef have experienced bleaching this year due to increased oceanic temperatures from climate change. This is the third mass bleaching event on record and possibly the worst yet — affecting one-third of the world’s corals. Other affected areas include Micronesia, as well as the Caribbean and Hawaii, both of which suffered major bleaching throughout their waters last summer.

Coral reefs provide food and shelter for numerous marine species and they support fish stocks that feed more than one billion people around the world. According to The New York Times, they provide jobs for “an estimated 30 million small-scale fishermen and women [who] depend on reefs for their livelihoods.”

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WildAid Launches South Africa Campaign to Save Rhinos

JOHANNESBURG (May 4, 2016) – Prominent South African celebrities have come together to launch a campaign for decisive action to solve the rhino poaching crisis that the nation has grappled with since 2008. 

The campaign features well-known South African personalities such as DJ Fresh, Springbok rugby player Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, comedian Marc Lottering, actress Masasa Mbangeni, DJ Poppy Ntshongwana, Super Rugby players Siya Kolisi, Scarra Ntubeni and Joe Pietersen and model-entrepreneur Maps Maponyane, many of whom visited the bush to see wild rhinos for the first time as part of the campaign.

“There’s a common belief in conservation and government circles that only wealthier, white people are concerned with rhino and the future of wildlife, but our research shows that conservation is strongly supported by people of all races and incomes," said WildAid CEO Peter Knights. "Conservation is a unifying issue in an often deeply divided country. You don’t need money to care about wildlife; your voice matters, too.”

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Lupita Nyong'o Joins Kenyan Celebrities for New Wildlife Campaign

Lupita Nyong'o in Kenya's Amboseli National Park (Kristian Schmidt for WildAid)

NAIROBI (April 27, 2016) — In the run up to the world's largest-ever ivory bonfire, to be conducted by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) this weekend, popular Afro-pop band Sauti Sol and local radio personality Caroline Mutoko have launched an anti-poaching “hearts and minds” campaign with Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o.

Kenya-based African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and WildAid’s “Poaching Steals from Us All” campaign uses public service announcements, documentary shorts, billboards and social media to urge support for conservation and reporting of wildlife crime. With an initial focus on elephants, the campaign will grow to cover other threatened species, such as lions, rhinos and vultures.

"Many of us know about the poaching crisis, but too many assume that someone else — the government or a conservation group — will take care of it," said Daudi Sumba, Vice President of Program Design for AWF. "If we lose our elephants and other wildlife to this threat, it will not be because we lacked the knowledge or tools to save them, but because we all failed to take ownership of our wildlife heritage. None of us can afford to be bystanders when so much is at stake." 

Lupita Nyong'o visits The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's Nairobi Elephant Orphanage

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