We are convening a collective ritual in honor of the vaquita porpoise. It includes a procession on saturday, February 17, in Mexico City -10:oo hrs at Tamayo Museum esplanade, Bosque de Chapultepec. With participation gallery of altars remembrance from around the world and multiple exhibitions in museums, galleries and other venues.
Needless to say, the success of the action depends on the number of people who participate. You’re invited to join us, and to help us to achieve the strength and breadth this call to conscience needs to succeed. Are you with us?
YOU’RE INVITED TO A PROCESSION IN HONOR OF THE VAQUITA
The world is about to witness an irreversible tragedy: the extinction of the vaquita porpoise. We are talking about the final extinction on this planet of an exclusively Mexican species, and hence the loss of a unique form of life. It is easily said, but a creature that for millions of years has lived in Mexico’s upper Gulf of California will be gone forever as a result of indifference and ignorance, of illegal fishing and trafficking, and of humankind’s ambition. Its place in the natural world will be left empty and no other organism will be able to fill the void. It is a genuine tragedy and very sobering thought that should lead us to reflect on how our daily actions are driving thousands of species towards the same end.
The porpoise commonly known as “vaquita” (Phocoena sinus) is the smallest of the cetaceans, the group of marine mammals that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. In 2016, the year of the last available estimate, the vaquita population was calculated to number fewer than thirty. This past October, over sixty experts from several countries attempted to capture a few specimens in order to preserve the species in captivity, but their efforts were unsuccessful.
In light of this tragic prospect, we the undersigned have resolved to stage a public demonstration in honor of the vaquita through a ceremonial act the purpose of which is to give the entire planet a reality check as to what the human race is wreaking on the natural world. The core message is to launch a worldwide appeal for us to change what we are doing wrong, and instead protect the natural species we humans depend on and are putting at risk of extinction, so that this story will never repeat itself.
We invite you to take part in the procession in honor of the vaquita, a silent and solemn ceremony of respect for the natural world to take place on Saturday, 17th February 2018, beginning at 10:00 a.m. The procession will depart from the Tamayo Museum and end at the National Museum of Anthropology. It will make its way through Chapultepec Park, safeguarded throughout by girls and boys forming two long barriers uniting both cultural venues, their presence acting as a silent reproach to our generation for the world we will be leaving them.
The procession’s highlight will be a “performance” conceived by Mexican artist and conservationist Patricio Robles Gil. He has created an evocative sculpture that is the centerpiece of the ceremony in honor of the vaquita, a symbolic fragment of which will be carried by various personalities along the route to the National Museum of Anthropology, where it will be incorporated back into the sculpture, which will thereafter be on public view.
Come to the procession with your family and friends! Let us act as witnesses and participants in a ritual that will help raise awareness of the significance of the irreparable loss of an animal species under our care, and of all that we must and can do to prevent this from occurring again. Please join us! Your participation is very important!
ARTIST AND CONSERVATIONIST
Born in Mexico in the 1950s, this brave and versatile artist speaks to us, in one of his books, of the three themes which give meaning to his existence:
Creativity through art
His life companion, Patricia
Among his finest qualities: honesty, perseverance, integrity, coherence, and recklessness to the point of stubbornness.
For more than a decade (1977-1988), he devoted himself to the drawing and painting of the ethnic groups of Mexico, with exhibitions in multiple galleries.
From 1989 to 2010, he founded two organizations dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and wilderness: Agrupación Sierra Madre SC and Unidos para la Conservación AC. These produced 38 art books about the natural wealth of Mexico and the world; five of them with Gil’s photographs and texts.
In the same period, he published articles and photographs in renowned magazines and received international and national awards for his work. He also designed campaigns for the protection of multiple animal species.
Gil remains convinced that art is a tool for change and an instrument of denunciation and confrontation. From 2010 through today, he’s worked on a project that he’s christened “The Rituals of Extinction.” In the works of art he’s created, through various means (photography, sculpture, painting, and installation), he provides evidence of serious environmental problems and raises awareness of the irreparable damage that humans have done to the planet.
Mónica del Villar K.
The procession will be accompanied musically, through the Chapultepec Forest from the Tamayo Museum to the National Museum of Anthropology, by the Tambuco Ensemble, led by composer, Ricardo Gallardo.
The conclusion of the ceremony, within the lobby of the National Museum of Anthropology, will culminate with a performance of composer Mario Lavista’s “Responsorio in memoriam Rodolfo Halffer.”
In Spanish; Vaquita, Vaquita Marina, Marsopa vaquita. In Latin: Phocoena sinus. Phocoena is the genus of porpoises, from the Latin vulgar porcopiscis (“pig-fish”) porcus = Puerco, piscis = fish. The word sinus means bay. In English; Desert porpoise, Vaquita porpoise, Gulf of California harbor porpoise, Gulf of California porpoise. French; Marsouin de Californie. German; Kalifornien-Schweinswal. Legend has it that men fishing for totoaba, when bringing in their nets, found a lactating female porpoise. Bringing the animal on board, milk came from the teats, and the name vaquita has been with us ever since.
The vaquita is a marine mammal along with whales, dolphins and other porpoises. These three are called cetaceans. Sea mammals also include seals, sea lions, elephant seals, manatees, and polar bears. All of them breathe air, and in total, some 129 different species of marine mammals are known.
The smallest of all cetaceans, an adult female can reach 1.5 meters in length and weigh 48 kilograms. Males are slightly smaller. The vaquita’s most distinctive features are black patches around the eyes and snout.
Vaquitas live approximately 20 years and reproduce for the first time between the ages of three and six years. Reproduction is seasonal, with most births occurring in March and April. A few females seem to reproduce annually, but most will do it every two years.
The vaquita is an exclusively Mexican species. Its historical distribution may have extended to several million square kilometers, in the northernmost region of the Gulf of California. Today, vaquitas inhabit an area of only a few thousand square kilometers, which also explains why it is the smallest of any living species of marine cetaceans.
As the vaquita is found exclusively in Mexican waters, it is said to be endemic to Mexico.
The species that was discovered relatively recently, in 1958, and was described by researchers Norris & McFarland, based on three skulls collected on the beaches north of San Felipe, Baja California.
The vaquita is in danger of extinction according to the official Mexican government definition, and in critical danger of extinction, on the red list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (UICN). The risk factor that has threatened and continues to threaten the survival of the vaquita is incidental mortality in gillnets used for shrimp and other fish. In the last five years, the resurgence of illegal totoaba fishing led to the average annual decline rate, between 2011 and 2016, to have been estimated at 39%, which corresponds to a population decrease of 90% in this short five-year period.
TOTOABA. (Totoaba macdonali) A marine fish endemic to the Gulf of California, the totoaba has been classified as endangered by the Mexican government and by UICN. Fishing for the species was banned in 1975, and the use of gillnets, toaberas, in 1992. Despite this, illegal fishing has continued to date.
From 2010 or 2011, demand in Hong Kong and mainland China for the swim bladder, the “fish maw,” of totoaba skyrocketed. A kilogram of the product reached up to US$100,000 on the Chinese black market. It is used as a traditional medicinal treatment even lacking any proof of its effectiveness. Totoaba fishermen can earn between US$1,500 and $10,000 per kilogram, depending on the quality of the harvest, adult males of the species being the most highly prized. Due to this financial incentive, fishermen risk legal prosecution when they fish for totoaba, and laying the gill nets, where the vaquitas die.
The first studies to know the number of vaquitas were made by the International Committee of the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA). In 1997, 567 individuals were estimated. In 2015 the size of the population was estimated at fewer than 60 individuals and, one year later, in 2016, at fewer than 30 vaquitas.
Many actions have been carried out in an attempt to ensure the recovery of vaquita numbers. These have ranged from studies of the reproductive processes to oceanographic studies, and studies of the fisheries and the socioeconomics of the region. The Biosphere Reserve of the Upper Gulf of California and the Colorado River Delta was established with the help of civil society organizations. These worked with the fishing communities in search of alternative and economical fishing methods, and networks for compensating fishermen. A refuge area for the protection of the vaquita itself was created to extend the protection area of the Biosphere Reserve, a gill net exclusion zone, and awareness campaigns were begun to educate on the importance of and threats to the vaquita. Surveillance was begun by the Mexican Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources through the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection, and the Secretary of the Navy. Abandoned nets were recovered (518 of them in 2016 and 2017), as were any drifting nets, old and new. An attempt to capture some vaquitas with the intention of raising them in captivity until assuring that there are no nets in which they can be entangled, unfortunately, failed.
For many years, there were no photographs of live vaquitas, with the result that many doubted their very existence. Civil society organizations have used media (exhibitions, social networks, posters, radio, television, etc.) to sound a warning call about the critical situation in which the vaquitas find themselves. In 1997, American painter William Shepherd made a painting of the vaquita, a mother with her young. To date, it’s the most widely used and representative image of the vaquita. On two occasions, series of postal stamps were printed with this image. At the same time, Mexican sculptor, Octavio Gonzales, made a sculpture, also of a mother and young, in life size, to be reproduced in bronze for several sculptures. The first one was given to the Papalote Children’s Museum. In 2002, a second sculpture was given to the Chapultepec Zoo. This event included a media campaign launched with the World Wildlife Fund, Mexico, the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (Cedo), Conservation International Mexico, Pronatura, Naturalia, Greenpeace, Sierra Madre and United for Conservation. In later years, four more of the sculptures were placed in Mexico City and on piers along the Gulf of California.
You’re invited to participate and join this global, ritual ceremony wherever you are in the world. Rituals are important to all of our lives. They help us to remember and mitigate the losses we suffer, and to prepare us to recognize and sometimes to resolve the conflicts we face.
The critical situation of the vaquita gives us an opportunity to make a global call in support of the many other species that human beings are pushing towards extinction. With digital media and social networks, today we can involve many more people like you. And this is apart from the uncertainty and the restlessness generated by bad news that comes to us every day from around the world.
The idea is that you invent your own ritual. We invite you to print some of the images of the vaquita below and place them in important places surrounded by some beloved objects, flowers, and candles. Photograph and document your altar and upload it to this platform, where you will see it as part of a world map which will display all the altars around the world. In this way, you may honor the vaquita, and your voice will be added to those of many other people and diverse cultural spaces, and sounding the alarm for the serious damage we are causing to the natural world.
Below is a calendar of exhibitions, installations and demonstrations at museums, galleries, universities and cultural spaces which have joined the global ritual in honor of the vaquita porpoise.
Altar to the Vaquita Marina.
(Date to define).
Photographic exhibition of the Vaquita.
(Date to be defined)
National Museum of Natural Sciences
of Madrid, Spain.
Colleen Casey’s Installation (reefs and dolphins in captivity sculptures).
Vaquita Marina’s sculptures and mural by the boy’s workshop.
We thank all the signers who supported the “Manifesto” of the Procession
We thank all the participants who will be part of the “Procession”
We thank all the audience that will attend the “Procession”
Javier Barros del Villar
Mónica Del Villar
Ramón Pérez Gil
Adrián Daniel Barrera
Alejandro del Mazo
María Cristina García Cepeda
Rosa María Gómez
Ana Mari Ibarrola
Mercedes Jiménez del Arco
Claude Le Brune
Aldonza López de Holschneider
Carmen López Portillo
José Enrique Ortíz Lanz
Mariana Pérez Amor
Dulce María Ramos
Federico Reyes Heroles
Héctor Rivero Borrell
Eduardo Robles Gil
Víctor Sánchez Cordero
Eduardo Vázquez Martín
Myriam Von Habsburg
Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso
Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
Autobuses de Oriente
Bosque de Chapultepec
Bosques Urbanos CDMX
Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas
Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad
Conservation International México
Fondo Ambiental Público
Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza
Fundación Manolo Arango
Galería de Arte Mexicano
Galería López Quiroga
Galería Patricia Conde
Instituto de Biología UNAM
Instituto de Ecologia, UNAM
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia
Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes
La Vaca Independiente
Liceo Franco Mexicano
Museo de Arte Popular
Museo del Desierto, Saltillo
Museo de la Ballena
Museo de Historia Natural
Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay, Mérida
Museo Franz Mayer
Museo Nacional de Antropología
Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid
Museo Nacional de San Carlos
Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporáneo
Papalote Museo del Niño
Protección y Conservación Pelágica
Red Semper Altius
Revista Este País
Roots & Shoots
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Secretaria del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, SEMARNAT
The American School Foundation
The Wild Foundation
Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana
Universum Museo de Ciencias de la UNAM