RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – While it may seem that most of the news these days revolves around ever increasing threats to wildlife, there are some remarkable wildlife success stories right here in the Rio Grande Valley.
When I was a youngster growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, you rarely glimpsed a Brown pelican or a Peregrine falcon, and you never saw an Aplomado falcon.
However, there are some things in our natural world that change for the better. With the banning of the harmful pesticide DDT in 1972, the Brown pelican and Peregrine falcon began their dramatic comebacks.
Many birds at the top of the food chain such as pelicans, peregrines, and aplomados ingested high levels of DDT, which were concentrated in the fatty tissue of their prey. Birds contaminated with the pesticide failed to lay eggs or produced fragile eggshells that often broke.
The once endangered Peregrine falcon and Brown pelican have both been taken off the federal endangered species list. Thanks to successful reintroduction efforts by the Peregrine Fund, the Aplomado falcon has returned to its historic range in deep South Texas.
The endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is also staging a slow comeback along the shores of South Padre Island and Boca Chica beach, however this past nesting season was down by some 50 percent compared to recent years.
Texas still has approximately 145 animals on the state list of endangered and threatened species, including the rare ocelot with only some 50 remaining in the wildlands of deep South Texas.
Each of these species faces unique circumstances threatening their existence, but providing sufficient safe habitat for them is of paramount importance.
The good news is that the Brown pelican, Peregrine falcon, and Aplmoado have shown species recovery is possible if we are willing to take the necessary steps to protect our natural heritage.