Top Five Creepiest Creatures


Top Five Creepiest Creatures

Here at the Aquarium, we have creepy, crawly, and spooky creatures of all shapes, sizes, and species. In honor of Halloween this Saturday, we made a definitive list of our official creepiest critters – tell us what you think, then be sure to come visit Saturday from 10 a.m. – 3  p.m. for our third annual Green Halloween where you can SEE them in person! 

5. Brutus, Eurasian Eagle Owl 



Eyes as big as half dollars and as yellow-orange as a harvest moon stare straight into yours, the intense gaze of the apex predator creeping into your soul…or at least that’s how some may feel. The long look a Eurasian Eagle Owl can give you is not one you’ll soon forget. These owls are native to Europe and Asia, and are among the biggest in the entire world – they can reportedly boast a six-and-a-half-foot wingspan! Within this impressive wingspan are serrated (like the teeth on a knife) wing feathers that enable the owl to glide almost silently through the night, stalking its prey – unbeknownst – from the sky. Eurasian Eagle Owls hunt using their silent flight, keen eyesight, and impeccable hearing. Brown says that like other species of owl, eagle owls have facial disks, or groups of feathers around their ears, that actually direct sounds toward their ears. Owls can raise these feathers slightly when on the hunt, enabling them to hear the rustle of a mouse in the grass, the flapping of feathers in the night, or the slithering of a snake in a tree branch. These sounds give away the location of prey animals, making it easy for these owls to swiftly swoop in to catch a meal – and their pointed, powerful talons can exert 500 pounds of PSI (pressure per inch)! Compared to the human hand’s 30 lbs of PSI, that’s scarily strong. The scariest thing about this creature, however, is its history. During the first half of the 20thcentury, Eurasian Eagle Owl numbers declined radically as humans over-hunted and nearly poisoned the whole population. Local European governments began increasing protective measures regarding the owls, and they are now back to a healthier number, though not as populous as they once were. TSA’s resident Eurasian Eagle Owl, Brutus, will be one featured creature you can meet at Green Halloween this Saturday!

4. Lionfish 



This invasive species not only looks scary, with its tiger-striped coloring and venomous spines, but the fact that it has been introduced into nonnative habitats where it has no natural predators is truly terrifying. Thought to have been dumped by hobby aquarists into Florida waters in the mid to late 80s, lionfish have spread like a disease and can now be found as far south as South America. The problem lies in that they feed on coral reef fish and similar coral-supporting species. With no natural predators, their numbers are increasing too rapidly to replenish the species they feed on. Scientists have been keeping tabs on the alien fish and trying to track how their influence is affecting marine ecosystems and it comes as no surprise that the end results don’t look good.  Fortunately, many U.S. states encourage lionfish hunting and ridding them of your local waters. An added bonus: If you are well versed in cooking venomous fish, rejoice, because lionfish are considered to be quite tasty!

3. Julius Squeezer, Red-tailed Boa Constrictor 

One of the most storied and legendary creepy critters to ever slither is the snake! Feel squeamish? You’re so not alone. From their cold, scaly skin, to their forked tongues and tendency to eat rodents in one gulp, it’s no wonder these reptiles have secured legendary creep out status. Boa Constrictors are scary in part due to their large size and the way in which they sometimes kill prey – by coiling around it and squeezing so tight as to suffocate it. However, more often, they will strike their prey first, and then coil around it, causing it to die by cardiac arrest. Their jaws are lined with small, hooked teeth perfect for grabbing and holding prey while they squeeze around it. Very large, strong boas can cause spinal fracture due to the huge of amounts of pressure they can apply to prey. Boas will eat almost anything they can catch, be it birds, rabbits, monkeys – even wild pigs, their jaws stretch extremely wide, enabling them to swallow large prey whole. Being native to the warm, tropical climes of North, Central, and South America, boas like to dwell in humid places and partially enclosed spaces like hollow logs; news stories depicting an elderly couple in Florida who discovered a slithery surprise in their garage one day are not at all uncommon. Squeezer Slither

2. Great White Shark 

Great white shark replica

Great white shark replica

With row upon row of razor sharp serrated teeth designed to shred and rip through flesh, along with the fact that they can grow to be 20 feet in length and weigh around 5,000 pounds, it’s no wonder many humans have a fear of the great white shark. While pop culture and movies like JAWS and Sharknado do nothing to dispel these fears, the fact remains that the great white shark is a scarily effective predator. Using the countershading of its body, its ability to pinpoint prey, and super speedy swimming skills, the great white was born to be an apex predator. Unfortunately, these attributes don’t stop it from becoming bycatch in the unsustainable fishing trade, or finned for soup in Asia. Much is still unknown about these misunderstood creatures, such as their mating and breeding habits, and their migratory patterns. Scientists like those from our own Harte Research Institute and members of OCEARCH, a research and expedition team who tag sharks and other apex predators around the world. The Aquarium’s newest exhibit, Saving Sharks, incorporates research from OCEARCH and HRI regarding shark conservation, because the scariest thing about great whites is how quickly they’re disappearing from our world’s oceans.

1. Human 

Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup Volunteers

Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup Volunteers

And, finally, drumroll please: the most terrifying, horrific, scream-inducing, bloodcurdling animal out there? Go take a look in the mirror. That’s right, it’s the human being. Though it’s the most intelligent creature in the world, this animal has a penchant for overpopulating, overusing (and abusing) the earth’s natural resources, and even littering the only home they have. They’re not all bad, though. They’ve created cures for diseases, they have extremely advanced technology, and many are humanitarians who try and help other animals and causes they find deserving. If more of them begin to treat the earth and their fellow animals with more respect, they’ll definitely take a dive down the creepiest creature list, but until then; they’ve got some work to do.  

Think Green This Halloween!

Rainforest Alliance Certified Seal

Trick-or-treating, the hallmark sugar haul of Halloween, is a favorite aspect of the holiday for costumed kids everywhere. Dumping out the plastic pumpkin at the end of the night to inventory Reeses and M&Ms, Snickers bars, Tootsie Roll Pops and the like is a definite highlight of the hallowed night (and for weeks after). At the Texas State Aquarium, we hope to impart this same excitement with our Halloween candy, but with a green twist.

In the animal world, the manufacturing of candy and similar food and even household items like cosmetics and cleaning products can have big repercussions. Palm oil, a product used to make all of those products and more, is grown and harvested in plantations – unsustainably and largely unchecked – around the world.imgres

The oil palm trees produce is extremely versatile, making it a highly demanded commodity. Unfortunately, it only grows in the tropics, where its cultivation can have disastrous impacts on people and the environment. To compound the problem, palm oil plantations are expanding more rapidly than almost any other agricultural product. Much of this expansion is taking place in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. In fact, in 2000, those two countries accounted for just over half of the world’s total plantation area, then 9.7 million hectares. What else are Malaysia and Indonesia home to? The Asian elephant, tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros, and the orangutan, all of which are highly endangered animals.

Palm oil is harvested via large scale deforestation, pushing many of these species and more ever closer to extinction. In addition to deforestation, habitat degradation, and climate change, often indigenous people, plants, and animals are abused in the world palm oil trade.

How can you help? Pay attention to what products use palm oil and even consider making a few swaps for those products that don’t. A few simple lifestyle changes for your family could mean big changes to animals affected in the wild.

Rainforest Alliance Certified Seal

Rainforest Alliance Certified Seal

Take for instance Halloween candy; at the Aquarium we choose to serve our guests candy produced by Yowie and the Natural Candy Store, two companies that make organic, GMO-free, gluten free, Fair Trade, and Rainforest Alliance Certified foods. The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization that works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. Products bearing the seal (a little green frog) originate on or contain ingredients sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms or forests. These farms and forests are managed according to rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria designed to conserve wildlife; safeguard soils and waterways; protect workers, their families and local communities; and increase livelihoods in order to achieve true, long-term sustainability.

Yowie Chocolate

Yowie Chocolate

Not only do these organizations help cut down on the palm oil production, they are also simply healthier. With no GMOs (genetically modified organisms), trans fats (artificial additives that make food more solid), or gluten (found in many grains), you can feel good about your children enjoying candy and chocolate that is natural, made sustainably, and best of all – green!

Join us for SPOOKTACULAR fun for the whole family as we celebrate our 3rd annual Green Halloween event on Saturday, October 31st from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.!

This October 31, make your Halloween green in every way and be sure to join us for our third annual Green Halloween event, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Texas State Aquarium!

Don’t fear the fin: Saving Sharks exhibit shows misunderstood fish need our help, not our fear

Saving Sharks Logo FINAL

Justifying not only the existence, but the conservation of Jaws is a hard license plate to swallow for many ocean-loving humans. Not everyone feels pity for the ocean’s apex predators, but the fact is that sharks are crucial to the health of our world’s oceans and their declining populations need our help now more than ever. Helping to illustrate the various ways in which we can and are conserving shark species is Saving Sharks, the newest exhibit brought to you by thUntitled-1-01e Texas State Aquarium, OCEARCH, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Due to unsustainable fishing practices, habitat alteration, climate change, and finning, shark populations have declined between 70 and 90 percent in recent years, leaving many of them swimming toward the endangered species list. Humans, unfortunately, have had a heavy hand in getting them there. The good news is, we can help turn their grim fate around. Passing on all shark products, consuming only sustainable fish, fishing responsibly, and learning more about your local shark populations are all things you can do to make the oceans safer for sharks – which makes it safer for us all.

Saving Sharks aims to support these conservation practices by furthering learning about these often misunderstood predators using facts and educational efforts to combat such ideologies. A section on shark biology helps accomplish this by exhibiting a shark’s cartilaginous skeleton, as well as skin, scales, and teeth samples from a number of different species.

ToothlessDesigned to capture the hearts and minds of would-be conservationists and lifelong shark fans, alike, Saving Sharks is a fun, interactive, and informative exhibit. Featuring a live touch tank area where visitors can see and feel whitespotted bamboo, horn, and epaulette sharks, track great whites in real time, and even stand inside a life-sized underwater diving cage, it’s a shark showcase that’s sure to excite and engage every member of the family!

The king of the shark world, the great white, is well represented throughout the exhibit, especially where OCEARCH is concerned. OCEARCH is a non-profit organization and leader in open source data collection and research concerning great whites and other apex predators.

Aboard the OCEARCH research vessel, the team travels the world and collects data including reproductive conditions of females, body measurements for comparative studies around the world, muscle biopsies to identify key life stages, and more. Led by founding chairman and expedition leader Chris Fischer, OCEARCH is able to bring live shark tracking straight to your fingertips via the Internet and their Global Shark Tracker. Follow majestic creatures such as Katherine, the 14-foot great white who has swum over 15,000 miles in the two years since she was tagged, or cruise alongside Sam Houston, the 10-foot long tiger shark tagged off the coast of Port Aransas last summer. OCEARCH plays a critical role in providing scientific information necessary in tracking and measuring shark species across the globe, helping to lead and better steer conservation efforts. SandTigerSharks062515a

Some of the first identified sharks that OCEARCH ever tracked were tagged by Corpus Christi’s own Dr. Greg Stunz of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Stunz was one of the first grantees to benefit from the Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Research Fund. Stunz’s main project focus was to gain a better understanding of shark migration patterns in the Gulf of Mexico. We’re excited that our funding could positively affect members of the local Corpus Christi community, both human and otherwise.

Take a dive into the underwater world of Saving Sharks this October and together, we can join fins and work to conserve these beautiful and fascinating fish!

The Man Behind the Mulch: Meet Landscape Specialist Keith Bethel


From the backwash basins in the very bottom of the building, to the tippity-top of the tall steeple on top of the observation deck, Keith Bethel knows the Aquarium from side to side, top to bottom. The twenty-five year staff member is technically titled Landscape Specialist, but he’s more like the Aquarium’s own Renaissance man. From parking issues, to sanitation stations, electricity and wiring, exhibit building – you name it and he’s had a hand in it.


Bethel pulling errant weeds out of his pristine landscaping.

Though a native Corpus Christian, Bethel lived in Hawaii as a young adult and worked in the landscaping industry, thus giving him the edge he needed 25 years ago to land his current position.

“I was somewhat knowledgeable about tropical plants and our climate here and what works here,” says Bethel.

Bethel says he was largely tasked with making choices regarding planting, soil, landscaping the front, back, and individual exhibit areas all around the aquarium – a somewhat daunting task for a young man. But Bethel knew exactly where to find answers and inspiration; they were right across the bridge.

“I would go and cruise down Ocean Drive and check out what was thriving and doing well in their yards, then take that knowledge back to the Aquarium. We have the same kind of exposure they do and it translates well,” Bethel explained.

But Bethel’s knowledge and ingenuity doesn’t just stop at plants and landscaping. As a master falconer, he is extremely well-versed on bird care, specifically raptors.

From a very young age, Bethel said he developed a fascination with birds. 


Bethel poses with a hawk behind the Aquarium. 

“From hummingbirds to condors, you name it; I think they’re all amazing creatures,” says Bethel, who used to spend hours of his childhood researching different bird species in the Corpus Christi Library’s encyclopedia collection. After wearing out the more general books, Bethel looked for other options and discovered one single volume concerning falconry, and that was it – the sport flew away with him.

“It is defined as ‘the art of using trained raptors to hunt,’ and is a sport that’s been around for thousands of years,” Bethel says. “There’s such a rich history behind it. Back even before the Medieval period.”

Bethel is very fond of his two peregrine falcons, Mamba, a female, and Colt, a male or tiercel. He says that working at the Aquarium over the years has afforded him great opportunities to learn more about birds of prey.


A master falconer, Bethel is pictured here hunting with one of his two falcons.

“I’m grateful for a lot of opportunities I’ve gotten working here. I’m thankful also for the stability the Aquarium has provided me and my family – my kids grew up in the halls here and now so will my grandkids,” Bethel says with a smile. His daughter Sarah is part of the Aquarium’s Guest Services staff and recently had a baby boy.

Pride indeed runs deep at the Aquarium for Keith Bethel. From creating and maintaining our award-winning grounds, to helping with various tasks in every department, and even helping to transport animals, there truly is so much to learn about the man behind the mulch.

Saving Sharks: A Great White Encounter


20030523a-dscn0132It’s either at the very top of your bucket list, or the number one thing you would never, ever dare to do: Swim with great white sharks.  

Here at the Texas State Aquarium, we’ve got some pretty brave souls. We have those who dive with the sand tiger sharks in our Islands of Steel exhibit; those who help give our 400-lb alligator Bo a physical, and even those work every day with our raptors, or birds of prey. But one of the bravest is Suraida Nanez-James, our manager of distance learning and outreach, who not only studied and helped to identify great whites; she cage dived with them, too.


Nanez-James is pictured wrestling bait back from a great white.

Back in the summer of 2003, Nanez-James was working on earning her undergraduate degree in Marine Fisheries at TAMUG and scored the opportunity to work for six weeks as a research intern for the now-defunct White Shark Trust Organization in Gansbaai, South Africa, A.K.A. the great white capital of the world.

Nanez-James and the rest of the crew were most interested in tracking demographic information of great whites in the area, i.e., recording data based on sex, length, and distinguishing marks.

“A big part of it was trying to get them to surface for us,” says Nanez-James, “Ideally, we were trying to study and ID their dorsal fins.” 20030606d-dscn0028

Research leader Michael Scholl called the process “finprinting,” and Nanez-James says it was a tad harder than it sounds.

After going about ten miles out in a rather pint-sized boat (cue Jaws quotes), their nine hour day began.

“We had to chum the water, and then drop bait, trying to get them close to the boat and to breach the water,” Nanez-James explains.

She said the task was made more difficult because the team didn’t want the sharks actually biting the buoys attached to the bait, or eating all of the bait. The object was not to feed the legendary creatures, but to lure them up to get photos for data purposes.

Nanez-James says it’s an experience she will never forget.

20030601b-dscn0139“I wasn’t scared of them, but let me tell you; it definitely gives you a healthy respect for them as predators. It was amazing to be able to get that close to them and just be aware of their grace and agility,” she says with awe. “Not only are they incredibly fast and agile for their size, they are super smart, too. They would learn where we were going to drop the bait and anticipate it before we even did it.”

A dearth of important information was recovered from the project, helping to support great white conservation efforts and also data in general.

“There’s just so much we don’t know about them – their migration patterns, where they breed, when and why they travel and why they travel so far,” Nanez-James says of the species.



Thanks to the efforts of scientists like Nanez-James and organizations like OCEARCH, Discovery’s Shark Week, and the shark tagging work done by Greg Stunz of the Harte Research Institute, we now know so much more and are learning every day about the wide world of sharks. Such research allows us to properly educate others about the oceans’ apex predators and also to learn how we can help conserve them for future generations and healthier oceans to come. 

Make Your World Oceans Day Clean & Green!


From World Ocean’s Day, to events like Party for the Planet and Green Halloween; we know we spout big ideals about conservation, eco-friendliness, and recycling. As we focus on this year’s World Oceans Day theme of “healthy oceans, healthy planet” and reducing marine debris, we’d like to tell you about our own eco-friendliness and maybe even inspire you to take home more than just memories and souvenirs from the Aquarium!

Xeriscaped landscape

Xeriscaped landscape with crushed granite, instead of soil

From our Xeriscape landscaping and multiple recycling stations, to even the things that you don’t see – like our water filtration/cycling system and the solar panels on our roof – the Texas State Aquarium is happy to assure you that not only do we talk the talk, we also walk the walk when it comes to doing our part to keep the planet healthy.

Check out the ways in which your Aquarium stays clean and green!

Restrooms: Installed in our upstairs restroom are Zurn Dual Flush systems. These systems are extremely water efficient and have two options: flush the handle up for liquid waste and flushing down for solid waste, providing just the right amount of water to handle the waste.

The urinals in our lobby restrooms are waterless, thus also contributing to our facility’s water conservation efforts.

Waste Recycling: Nearly every single waste container at the Aquarium is broken up into plastic and/or recyclable waste receptacles. Upstairs and spread around the premises, we also have designated disposal areas for cans, paper, plastics, and even bottle screw tops and batteries. 

Outdoor recycling center

Outdoor recycling center

Seawater usage and recycling: One of the many perks of being located right on the incredible Corpus Christi bay front is our direct access to the bay’s seawater. Instead of filling our exhibits with tap water, treating it, and then adding massive amounts of salt to it in order to make it a suitable habitat for marine life, the Aquarium pipes in water from the bay, filters it multiple times, while also treating it for impurities and chemicals, and then pipes that water into our exhibits. This practice not only saves huge amounts of time and money, but also massive quantities of freshwater.

Additionally, the Aquarium will change the water in our exhibits from time to time. The very same water that is piped in is treated, filtered, processed, and sent back out into the bay.

LED Lighting: At the Aquarium, we employ LED lighting all over the facility. As opposed to incandescent bulbs or compact fluorescents, LEDs produce light by using light emitting diodes – a much more efficient use of energy than traditional sources.

Utensils Made From Plants, Paper Straw

Utensils made from plant starch

Xeriscape landscaping: One of the first things you notice about the Aquarium is the lush, beautiful grounds. Palm trees, tropical flowers, manicured lawns, and more. The one thing you won’t find are lot of flower beds or mulch, as the Aquarium utilizes Xeriscape landscaping wherever possible on our premises. Xeriscaping is a landscaping or gardening practice that vastly reduces and sometimes eliminates the need for supplemental watering. Xeriscaped grounds use up to two-thirds less water than traditional lawn landscapes and also help support drought-resistant plant life local to the region, giving that true Coastal Bend flora experience. 

Utensils: Not only can you enjoy the delicious food from our Pepsi Shoreline Grill and Café Aqua, you can feel good about eating it, too! The utensils we supply at our restaurant facilities are from an eco-friendly and green company called Eco Products, and our spoons, forks, and knives are all made out of plant starch. The cutlery is made from 70% renewable materials, thus helping to reduce the consumption of non-renewable fossil fuels required to make conventional plastic cutlery.

Solar Panels: The rooftop of the Aquarium not only provides stunning view of the USS Lexington, North Beach, and Corpus Christi Bay, but also an array of sustainable solar energy panels. Solar power cells convert sunlight into electricity, using the energy of photons to create an electrical current.

Solar panels on roof

Solar panels on roof

Over the past few decades, scientists studied how to harness the sun’s energy with more efficiency to do the work of non-renewable fuels – without pollution, noise or radiation, and not subject to economic issues that can cause costs to fluctuate.

Keurig K-Cup Recycling: If you’ve been up to the third floor of the Aquarium, you’ll know that the majority of the space is dedicated to offices, and though the Aquarium may not look like just any other office building – we still thoroughly enjoy (and need) our coffee. Keurig coffee brewers are very conducive to office environments, allowing each individual to brew his or her very own custom cup of coffee, however, the issue comes in disposing of the Keurig K-Cups. As more K-Cup recycling programs have become available, the Aquarium has decided to utilize the Keurig Grounds to Grow On K-Cup pod recycling program as another one of our green efforts.

Grounds to Grown On simply requires participants to purchase a K-Cup recovery bin that will act as both a disposal receptacle and as the mailing container to ship gathered K-Cups back to the organization, where they will use leftover coffee grounds in compost and recycle the plastic parts of the K-Cup.

Green Audit: We’re also pledging to conduct a green audit this summer, seeking and implementing every additional means we can to reduce energy and plastic waste, including marine debris. While Texas State Aquarium has long facilitated Texas General Land Office Adopt-A-Beach cleanups on North Beach, this year we’re implementing a comprehensive marine debris plan that will coordinate Aquarium staff, AquaTeens, and community volunteers for at least ten cleanups at North Beach and Packery Channel sites.

Together, we can move/remove mountains – mountains of plastic that harm wildlife, and ultimately ourselves – in the world’s ocean. Please join us in action, small and simple or large and grand on World Oceans Day and beyond.

World Turtle Day!

Walker, our Texas tortoise
Walker, our Texas tortoise

Walker, our Texas tortoise

It’s only fitting that we celebrate one of the world’s oldest creatures with its own designated day. That’s right, the sea turtles you can glimpse while catching the sunset in Port A, the box turtle you have as a pet, and the famous Galapagos Islands tortoises (who fittingly look like living fossils) have been around for a whopping 200 million years.

Conservation Cove small

To honor and promote awareness on behalf of these wonderful animals, the American Tortoise Rescue founded World Turtle Day in 2000. The organization also gathered a bunch of helpful tips and advice on how YOU can do your part and help to save turtles and tortoises so that they can be around for another 200 million years! 

  • If you’re interested in obtaining a pet turtle, do your research on different species and their needs, then purchase the animal from a reputable store, breeder, or shelter. DO NOT TAKE A WILD TURTLE FOR A PET.
  • Do not release a pet turtle into the wild if you find yourself unable or unwilling to care for it. Turtles kept as pets may not have the important nutrients they need to survive cold winters. In addition, pet turtles may not be native to your area and should not interbreed with wild turtles.
  • Don’t remove turtles or tortoises from the wild unless they appear sick or injured.
  • If a tortoise is crossing a busy street, pick it up and take it in the same direction it was going – if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again.
  • Do your part to keep beaches and other natural turtle and tortoise habitats free and clean of trash.
Danni small

Danni, our Red-footed tortoise

Sadly, many of the turtle and tortoise species here at the Aquarium are considered by the IUCN as near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. These species include all of our sea turtles – green, Kemp’s ridley, hawksbill, loggerhead – as well as our Diamondback terrapin, Red-footed tortoise, ornate box turtle, and gopher tortoise. 

Help us bring awareness to the plight of these incredible creatures by visiting the Aquarium to learn more about them, WEAR GREEN, and please consider donating to organizations like ours that are committed to conserving species!

Happy World Turtle Day!

Species Success Stories

Bo close up small

There are far too many species – both plant and animal – listed on the Endangered Species List. However, the silver lining in the inherent doom and gloom of impending species extinction lies in the fact that we have the power to get species OFF the list.

Bo, our American alligator, is a species success story.

Bo, our American alligator, is a species success story.

Take for example, the American alligator. Mass market hunting and habitat loss left this species at an all-time low in the 1950s. Many believed the reptile species, whose ancestry dates back 200 million years, wouldn’t survive. Thanks to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and many other state conservation agencies, the opposite happened.

In 1967, under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the alligator was listed as endangered, giving it certain protections. Then, when the ESA was passed in 1973, even more protections were granted the species. It became illegal to hunt, allowing the animals to rebound in many areas where it had been nearly depleted.

As southern states saw the alligator start to turn the corner, they established alligator monitoring programs and then used the data to ensure that the species was continuing to increase in number. 

Join us on Friday, May 15 as we celebrate the amazing animals that inhabit our world and learn all about how to help and protect the ones that are endangered or threatened. We will have a host of fun and educational programming you won’t want to miss!

Join us on Friday, May 15 as we celebrate the amazing animals that inhabit our world and learn all about how to help and protect the ones that are endangered or threatened. We will have a host of fun and educational programming you won’t want to miss!

Finally, in 1987, after being endangered for over 20 years, USFWS declared the American alligator fully recovered and removed the animal from list of endangered species. And although it’s no longer endangered, it’s not fully “out of the swamp” yet. Related crocodile and caiman species are still in trouble and as such, have caused the USFWS to continue to protect the alligator under the ESA classification “threatened due to similarity of appearance.” The organization regulates the harvest of legal trade in the species, thus preventing illegal taking efforts and the trafficking of endangered look-alike reptiles. 

Meet Bo, our very own American alligator, and join us Friday, May 15 for Endangered Species Day and learn all about how YOU can help save species and write more success stories like this one!

A List You Don’t Want To Be On

Daisy, our Kemp's ridley sea turtle, is Critically Endangered.

Your name on the list to get into an exclusive club – great. Being on the list to win a prize – awesome. Your name being on a list concerning potential extinction….not so good. That list – the Endangered Species List – is definitely one you don’t want to be on. As we detailed in our last post, this list focuses on federally protected plant and animal species that are at varying levels of risk for extinction. Below we explain what leads scientists and officials to put plant and animal species on the list. 

Daisy, our Kemp's ridley sea turtle, is Critically Endangered.

Daisy, our Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, is Critically Endangered.

While terrestrial animals are covered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, water-based species are watched over by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Scientific data is collected from these agencies by scientists on the local, state, and national levels. Said data is thoroughly analyzed to determine if the animal qualifies for protected status under the 1973 Endangered Species Act.

Analysis of that information leads conservationists to ask the following questions:

  • Has a significant portion of the species’ vital habitat been damaged or destroyed?
  • Has the species been affected by overconsumption due to commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational uses?
  • Is the species affected by excessive predation or disease?
  • Are the current regulations that protect this species inadequate or lacking?
  • What manmade factors threaten the long-term survival of this species?

If the answers to one or more of the above questions are in the affirmative or show to be negatively affecting the species, then the species is eligible to be listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act. Once granted this designation, that species is then given special protections by the government, such as being shielded from being “taken,” traded, or sold. The ESA defines the term “taken” as “harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, collecting, or attempting  to engage in any such conduct” with the species.

Join us on Friday, May 15 as we celebrate the amazing animals that inhabit our world and learn all about how to help and protect the ones that are endangered or threatened. We will have a host of fun and educational programming you won’t want to miss!

Join us on Friday, May 15 as we celebrate the amazing animals that inhabit our world and learn all about how to help and protect the ones that are endangered or threatened. We will have a host of fun and educational programming you won’t want to miss!

Like what you’re reading? Be sure to join us Friday, May 15, for Endangered Species Day at the Aquarium! 

What Does Being Endangered Mean?

Einstein, our Hawksbill Sea Turtle, is Critically Endangered.

For many of us, an endangered species is an exotic animal from a far-off land, like the White Bengal Tiger, Javan Rhinoceros, or the Polar Bear. We don’t oftentimes associate animals about to be booted off the face of the earth as creatures like a backyard tree dweller (the Houston Toad), or the gentle Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.

The sad truth is that too vast a number of flora and fauna inhabit the endangered list, but the first step to saving those species is to understand more about how and why they got where they are today. 

Einstein, our Hawksbill Sea Turtle, is Critically Endangered.

Einstein, our Hawksbill Sea Turtle, is Critically Endangered.

In this, the first in an installment of blog posts about endangered species, leading up to Endangered Species Day – Friday, May 15 – we will examine how species’ conservation statuses are determined and what those categorizations mean.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, the Endangered Species Act (ESA for short) was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1973 to protect endangered species, threatened species, and critical habitats.

Endangered Species are defined as, “Species that are likely to become extinct throughout all or a large portion of their range,” while Threatened Species are, “Species that are likely to become endangered in the near future.” Critical habitat is termed as that which is “vital to the survival of endangered or threatened species.” 

Once on the endangered species list, bald eagles like our Grace have made a great comeback as a species.

Once on the endangered species list, bald eagles like our Grace have made a great comeback as a species.

LC – Least Concern

NT – Near Threatened

VU – Vulnerable

EN – Endangered

EW – Extinct in the Wild

EX – Extinct

The Endangered Species list also has varying levels of endangerment. These range from Least Concern on the non-serious end, all the way to final depressing designation: Extinct. Between the two lie Near Threatened, meaning the animal is likely to soon qualify for a threatened category in the future. Next serious is the Vulnerable designation, meaning the species is currently facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. The next category is Endangered, meaning the species is very seriously facing an imminent threat of extinction. Critically Endangered ratchets that extinction threat up even more. Next is Extinct in the Wild, meaning the species is known only to survive in a cultivated or naturalized environment (read: no longer in the wild). Finally, being designated as Extinct means that scientists and researchers have no reasonable doubt that any of the species is left alive.  

The websites below are great resources to learn more about Endangered Species and their fight for life.

Stay tuned for our next post!,28757,1888728,00.html