An endangered species is a plant or animal that has been deemed likely to go extinct in the wild. Due to threats such as hunting, fishing, land development, or even global warming, there are over 3000 animals worldwide considered to be endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Throughout the year, we use our exhibits, presentations, education programs, and other means to communicate to our guests the importance of conserving and protecting endangered and vulnerable species, but this month, we want to call special attention to the plight of a few of these threatened animals. For one, May 19 was Endangered Species Day, a time where we should all learn about how we can help these animals. We also opened Caribbean Journey in May, welcoming a few new animals that are endangered in the wild, and kicked off a new social media campaign to help save a critically-endangered porpoise, the vaquita.
Below, learn about the currently and formerly threatened and endangered species the Aquarium is working to help save. While the situation of many of these species is still dire, others are a sign of hope, showing that government protections and the actions of a few caring individuals can allow a species to recover. Read on to find out a bit more oonthese species and how you can help.
The vaquita is nearly extinct, with only 30 individuals left in the wild, due to illegal gillnets which entangle and drown these tiny porpoises. As a last-ditch effort to save the vaquita, partnering zoos and aquariums are planning to capture the remaining vaquitas and put them in a protective environment where they can hopefully thrive and even breed. You can call attention to the vaquita by participating in the #Pied4aPorpoise campaign on social media and donating $30 to rescue efforts at vaquitacpr.org
Goliath grouper: Critically-endangered
Duncan the goliath grouper is one of our most popular residents of the H-E-B Caribbean Sea Shark exhibit, where he can be found lurking within the shipwreck. Sadly, goliath groupers are nearly extinct in the wild, due to being overfished. A harvest ban has been placed on the species since the early 1990s, and the population is slowly recovering. If you ever catch a goliath grouper, immediately return to the water alive and unharmed.
Green sea turtle: Endangered
You’ll see a few of our resident green sea turtles throughout the Aquarium, from Crush and Squirt in Tortuga Cay to Pickles in the H-E-B Caribbean Sea Shark exhibit. Like all sea turtles, green sea turtles are endangered in the wild due to human activities, including being hunted, ocean pollution, habitat loss, and fishing line entanglement. We participate in local efforts to conserve sea turtles, including rehabilitating and releasing wild sea turtles. You can learn more about our Second Chances program and donate here.
Sandbar Shark: Vulnerable
Gliding through our H-E-B Caribbean Sea Shark exhibit are sandbar sharks, also known as brown sharks. These sharks may look intimidating, but they are in fact relatively harmless to humans, having never killed a person. Humans, on the other hands, have targeted the sandbar shark for its large fins, which are considered to be a delicacy in some cultures. Fishermen will haul up sharks, cut off their fins, and toss the shark back into the water to drown. To help out the sandbar shark and other species, you can speak out on the barbaric practice of shark finning through social media or through other organized campaigns.
Grace, our beautiful bald eagle in Eagle Pass, shows why this species is such a popular symbol of America. But not too long ago, the bald eagle was nearly wiped out. A significant threat was the pesticide DDT, which made birds sterile or unable to lay health eggs. Hutning and trapping also threatened the bald eagle. Laws throughout the 20th century banned eagle hunting and the use of DDT, and the eagle population rebounded. In 1995, the eagle was officially delisted as an endangered or threatened species in 2007, and with protections in place, its future looks bright.
American Alligator: Least Concern
Measuring ten feet long, Bo the American alligator is the undisputed ruler of our Swamp Tales exhibit. Bo found new life at the Aquarium after a near-death experience, and the same can be said for his species. While alligators are now spread throughout the U.S., they were a endangered species in 1973 after a long period of unrestricted hunting. Thanks to significant conservation efforts including hunting limits, the alligator has now recovered and was removed from the list in 1987. You’re now likely to find these toothy reptiles in many American swamps, basking on shore or floating at the water’s surface.
As you can see, plenty of animals have been brought back from the brink of extinction, so there’s more than enough hope that that same can be done for Earth’s other endangered species. But it’s not possible without your help. Please join us in creating a better world where these and other endangered species can survive and live on to amaze the next generations.
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