ALL ISSUES    |    SUMMER 2016

Conservation & Science

Dive into Baja California's Conservation Stories in ¡Viva Baja!

Life in Baja California is unique and fragile, and occupies one of the most biologically diverse natural habitats in the world. Baja California is home to one of the largest tropical reefs on Earth—a UNESCO/World Heritage site at Cabo Pulmo.

It has been made both more vulnerable—and strengthened—by human activity, including from its neighbors here in the United States. Much work remains to safeguard incredibly rich communities of animals, plants and habitats that were once shielded by Baja’s isolation and very arid climate.

"Baja California might seem far away, but we're closely connected to this special place," says Senior Exhibit Developer Raúl Nava." Our choices and our actions affect this wild coast, and we hope the exhibition shows visitors how we can make a positive impact in Baja and beyond."

You’ll meet the wildlife and learn more about some of the problems—and solutions—facing our southern neighbors in our new ¡Viva Baja! Life on the Edge special exhibition. We also tell the story of charismatic animals that migrate to Baja each year in a new auditorium program," Journey to Baja: A Tale of Three Travelers." You'll learn what you can do to help, and why you should.

Inside ¡Viva Baja! you’ll encounter hands-on exhibits with time-lapse animation and interactive animal models that show how life adapts to conditions in the complex communities of Baja’s coastal deserts, mangrove forests and coral reefs. Another engaging multimedia display lets you color your own tropical fish and "release" it into a virtual coral reef.

A short, narrated video introduces the iconic marine mammals that live off Baja California. We share how conservation groups, scientists and legislators helped to bring gray whales back to Baja's warm waters. But we also share how we must work together again to save the critically endangered vaquita—the world's smallest porpoise, whose striking markings have earned it the nickname "the panda of the sea." Sadly, fewer than 100 remain in the wild.

Other interactive exhibits explore major threats to Baja's habitats—water diversion, illegal fishing, overfishing and coastal development. They also show how people working cooperatively have helped address these threats.

For example, the Colorado River once emptied into the Gulf of California. But dams, development and agriculture in the United States dried up the river in the northern Gulf of California, leaving behind dry streambeds. Our demand for water comes at a cost—vital wetlands and other coastal habitats now struggle to survive.

A historic agreement in 2013 between the United States and Mexico partially restored the Colorado’s flow. An alliance of conservation groups helped secure enough water to support both farms and wetlands. Slowly, the delta and coastal communities are beginning to rebound—but there’s still work ahead.

In the case of reefs at Cabo Pulmo off the southern tip of Baja California—one of the oldest coral reefs in the northern Pacific Ocean—conservation groups worked with the Mexican government to end decades of overfishing that depleted its rich marine life. Today, it’s a designated National Marine Park as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Former fishermen are now ecotourism guides. But people must be diligent in monitoring coastal development to keep Cabo Pulmo thriving and healthy.

"Baja California faces a rising tide of threats, but we're at a crossroads right now," says Raúl. "If we act now, we have an opportunity to make a difference and preserve this special place."

Thank You!

Member and donor support makes special exhibits like ¡Viva Baja! possible.