NEW BEDFORD—The Buttonwood Park Zoo has donated $5,000 as part of a $1 million rescue plan to save the vaquita porpoise, the world's most endangered marine mammal.

The vaquita is found off the coast of Mexico and has a very limited range. Zoo director Keith Lovett says they used to thrive in the wild, but now there are only 30 vaquitas left in the world.

"At the current rate, it would not be surprising if nothing is done, that this animal would go extinct over the next 2-3 years," he said, noting that the 30 left is about half of what there was just a year ago. "So this is literally an emergency rescue operation to help try to save these animals, and protect the remaining animals, so that they can once again thrive in the wild.

The vaquitas need protection from the nets of fishermen, where they often get caught up easily.

"This last-ditch effort, which is being put together by the Mexican government, is to actually try to capture remaining vaquitas that are left in the wild and putting them in large sea pens to protect them," Lovett said.

The Buttonwood Park Zoo donation comes directly from zoo visitors that choose to contribute to the zoo's animal conservation programs.

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