Friday, May 18, 2012

Today is Endangered Species Day

Think about how amazing it is to see an American bald eagle soaring over downtown Chattanooga. Yet almost every day, within eyesight of the Tennessee Aquarium, these majestic birds are seen soaring overhead and even rearing their young. These sightings weren’t always so common.

Bald eagles seen near downtown Chattanooga from aboard the River Gorge Explorer.

Since the Endangered Species Act went into effect in 1973, a lot of progress has been made with respect to conservation of threatened and endangered plants, animals and the habitats in which they are found. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and AtmosphericAdministration continue to lead the implementation of this protection.

In short, the law helps ensure that careful planning is in place so that future actions don’t threaten the existence of any listed species or cause the critical habitat of listed species to be destroyed or significantly modified in ways that would jeopardize listed species. The law also prohibits “taking” of any listed species of endangered fish or wildlife.

American alligator in the Delta Swamp exhibit at the Tennessee Aquarium.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service points to the American bald eagle, brown pelican, Lake Erie water snake, American alligator and Maguire daisy as ESA success stories. All were on the brink of extinction at one time, but have successfully rebounded with protected status and conservation efforts.

According to a USF&WS press release, today is the day to remind everyone about these animals and the ones that still need a helping hand. “Endangered Species Day provides an opportunity to celebrate our successes and strengthen our partnership with the American public to conserve our shared natural resources,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “By taking action to help our threatened and endangered plants and animals, we can ensure a healthy future for our country and protect treasured landscapes for future generations.”

Barrens topminnow seen in the River Journey building.

The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, TNACI, works very closely with USF&WS, along with other conservation agencies and organizations on some very successful restoration efforts. Today, TNACI will be on the Conasauga River releasing some beautiful logperch that were reared in captivity. This action will be the first time such an effort has been made to bolster the populations of this species on the brink. Next Thursday, more TNACI biologists will be in Middle Tennessee releasing captive-bred Barrens topminnows. This fish could have been listed as an Endangered Species, but landowners agreed to work with conservationists to save this fish. And this partnership has worked.

Dwarf crocodile seen in the Aquarium's Rivers of the World gallery.

The Aquarium is also a place where people can see endangered species like Conasauga logperch, Barrens topminnows, West African dwarf crocodile and the beautiful Palawan peacock pheasant. Many of the turtles on display at the Aquarium, like the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, are also endangered species. Even in the new River Giants exhibit you’ll find giant pangassius catfish that are listed as endangered species.

Sandtiger shark seen in the Aquarium's Secret Reef exhibit.

Many more Aquarium animals are “vulnerable” species like the toothy sandtiger shark, lined seahorse and many of the corals featured in the live coral exhibit within the Boneless Beauties gallery. Look for the status of species on the animal ID graphics near each exhibit on your next visit.

Tennessee Aquarium senior educator Susie Grant teaches summer campers about American alligators.

We hope our guests make a connection to these amazing animals while seeing them up close. Those connections help people better understand each of these wonderful creatures and why we should all be eager to protect them.

Aquarist Matt Hamilton with visitors in the Barrens topminnow lab exhibit.

So, it’s with the enthusiasm of oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle that we celebrate Endangered Species Day. We can admire truly remarkable species with a special realization that it’s our responsibility to make sure they don’t disappear on our watch. “This is the first time in our history that we are capable of understanding our effect on the Earth’s atmosphere, the chemistry of the ocean, and the biodiversity of life. We’re the only species on the planet that can do something about it.” – Dr. Sylvia Earle

1 comment:

Admin said...

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