State Aquarium Expansion
Will Enable Better Turtle Rescues
Long before the Texas freeze in February, planners at the nonprofit Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi were well on their way to more than doubling the facility’s wildlife rescue and rehabilitation capacity.
Completion of the 27,000-square-foot Port of Corpus Christi Center for Wildlife Rescue is expected in late 2022.
Expansion plans began after Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. Since then, wildlife along the South Texas Gulf Coast have endured annual challenges that demonstrated a growing need to enhance the aquarium’s rescue and rehabilitation operations.
The February freeze punctuated this point, with Texas experiencing thousands of cold-stunned sea turtles.
It’s the only Texas facility that’s permitted to care for birds, sea turtles and marine mammals, says Jesse Gilbert, the aquarium’s senior vice president and chief operating officer.
The new $15 million facility will have an interactive theater (underwritten by Exxon Mobil) where visitors can watch real-time medical procedures and the wildlife rehabilitation process.
“This space will be dynamic, mainly because of the rescue drama that unfolded in February,” Gilbert says. “I don’t think anyone fully appreciated how the sea turtle population has grown. With the new center, if you were to visit a week after a freeze, you would really get to see a full-scale rescue-medical operation at work.”
The new center will be capable of expanding to house up to 3,000 turtles.
“The February freeze was as big a challenge as (Hurricane) Harvey was for us,” Gilbert says. “Now, with natural gas to power generators, we should be self-sufficient for seven to 10 days.”
Gilbert views the new facility as an educational institution, capable of recruiting wildlife conservationists and promoting a sustainable conservation ethic.
“This is a one-stop facility that will showcase the wildlife conservation network throughout South Texas,” he says. “Hopefully, this will further the public’s stake in conservation by helping them understand their part in rescuing, reporting and preventing wildlife harm from natural events or manmade causes.”
Read more about rescue work at the new center on our blog.
TPWD Staff rendering courtesy of crosswind PR Media
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