Corpus Christi –  The average visitor to the Texas State Aquarium is sure to be in awe of the 460+ species of animals on exhibit, from sharks and sloths to flamingos and otters, and may even learn something about how they can help protect these species in the wild. But what they may not know is how their admission to the not-for-profit aquarium isn’t just giving them an up-close and educational look at species from near and far, it’s helping to support the rescue and preservation of hundreds of wild animals and habitats in their own “backyard,” the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, on National Wildlife Day, the Texas State Aquarium is reminding its guests, members, and other supporters of the important wildlife conservation work they make possible. The Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue Center, for example, takes in hundreds of ill and injured sea turtles, shorebirds, raptors and marine mammals each year. In 2018 so far, more than 1,000 endangered sea turtles have been taken in by the rescue team, and after treatment and rehabilitation, released back into their natural habitat.

Aquarium proceeds are also directed to support wildlife conservation and research projects in the Gulf of Mexico. In the past five years, more than $500,000 has been given through the Wildlife Care, Conservation, and Research Fund (WCCR) to support tagging and tracking sharks, studying the movements of critical fish populations, eliminating invasive lionfish and examining the genetic composition of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, among other research efforts.  The Aquarium has also supported important wildlife conservation projects through WCCR, including donating $75,000 to date towards VaquitaCPR, an international undertaking to save the critically-endangered vaquita porpoise. 

Funds from Aquarium’s guest admission, membership and donations also go to environmentally-focused educational events and programs like Seafood Wars, SeaCamp and Adopt-A-Beach cleanups, where the Aquarium helps organize volunteers to remove hundreds of tons of trash from local coastlines.

“As a wildlife conservation-based organization, it’s important that we not just inspire our guests to learn and care about wildlife, but that we take a direct role in ensuring the species represented in our care have a future in their natural habitat,” said Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid. “On National Wildlife Day, we want to thank our members and guests for their support of both our national and international wildlife conservation efforts, whether it’s our growing Wildlife Rescue Program, our support of critical research projects or our award-winning educational programs.”

The Aquarium’s overall goals are summed up in its official mission: to engage people with animals, inspire appreciation for our seas, and support wildlife conservation. The staff and leadership at the Aquarium hope that their exhibits, presentations and programs gives their nearly 600,000 annual guests valuable lessons on the importance of protecting wildlife and wild places. But they also want them to know that simply by visiting, they’re already helping to make a difference for countless wildlife species in America and beyond.

The Texas State Aquarium is open daily. On September 4, National Wildlife Day, the Aquarium will be open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Parking is included in your admission price. To purchase tickets in advance and skip the line or to learn more about exhibits, hours and other visitor information, visit www.texasstateaquarium.org. To learn more about the Aquarium’s conservation efforts, visit www.texasstateaquarium.org/conserve.