IguanaForty years ago today, President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act to help save animals, plants and their habitats from extinction. Today, we celebrate the successes of the law and the 2,140 species it continues to protect – including 14 endangered or threatened species at Shedd.

Under the Endangered Species Act, key species such as the bald eagle were able to recover. Officials took action by prohibiting the killing of eagles, improving water quality, protecting nest sites and restoring eagles to their previous areas. Now, the bald eagle no longer needs the protection of the ESA, and scientists are hopeful that the thousands of species still under watch will have similar success stories. 

Yet, this recovery process is far from easy. For the Grand Cayman blue iguana – an endangered species Shedd cares for – habitat loss means not only fewer fruit trees, but also greater residential and tourist traffic, domestic animal predation and illegal capturing. Though the Grand Cayman blue iguana faces many threats, organizations like Shedd are working to provide care and research for the benefit of the species.

FishOther endangered animals at Shedd include the green sea turtle, South American red-lined turtle, giant South American river turtle, yellow-spotted Amazon River turtle, Goeldi's monkey and Asian arawana. Shedd also has several threatened species such as the northern sea otter, southern sea otter, ringed map turtle, yellow-blotched map turtle, Cuban ground iguana, shovelnose sturgeon and elkhorn coral.

Alligator snapping turtleAdditionally, Shedd cares for five animals on the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board’s list – the alligator snapping turtle, lake sturgeon, hellbender, redspotted sunfish and Iowa darter – all of which can be found in the At Home on the Great Lakes gallery. An additional 27 endangered or critically endangered species at Shedd are listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, for a total of 46 protected species at Shedd.  

Australian lungfishToday, we are thankful for the 40 years of conservation work done through the ESA. “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life,” said President Nixon when signing the act. We couldn’t agree more!

Read more on the ESA’s 40th anniversary.

Check out the ESA’s current list of protected species.

Nadia Hlebowitsh, web team