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Recognizing Endangered Species Day

Endangered Species Day is celebrated on May 17 every year to bring awareness to threats facing endangered species across our blue planet.

Published May 17, 2019

More than 1,300 species are listed as threatened or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, including several we care for at the National Aquarium.

Yellow-headed Amazons

Yellow-headed Amazon parrots hail from Mexico and northern Central America and are known for their bright green bodies, yellow heads and the red patches found on each wing. They have long lifespans of 60 to 90 years. The population of yellow-headed Amazons is rapidly declining due to widespread deforestation—resulting in the loss of nesting habitat—and continued poaching and illegal pet trade.

Here at the Aquarium, two yellow-headed Amazons reside in Upland Tropical Rain Forest.

Mainly due to bycatch in fishing nets, sawfish are the most threatened group of fish among sharks and rays, despite once being abundant in many coastal tropical waters. Sawfish are important members of the oceanic ecosystem; they help with population control by feeding on small fishes and crustaceans.

All five species of sawfish are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The IUCN lists two species, the narrow and dwarf sawfish, as endangered and the other three—green, smalltooth and largetooth—as critically endangered. There are signs that conservation efforts are paying off for at least one species, with recent discoveries that smalltooth sawfish populations are recovering.

Banggai cardinalfish

Banggai cardinalfish are easily recognized by their tasseled first dorsal fin; long, tapering second dorsal fin; and deeply forked tail. Since being introduced to the pet trade in the 1990s, this species has been in rapid decline in its native range of the Banggai Islands in Indonesia. Some experts fear that exploitation and over-collection of this species could lead to extinction.

Small actions that you can take in your everyday life can make a big difference for threatened and endangered species. Attending local conservation events—or even starting your own clean-up—is a great way to ensure threatened species have access to habitats they rely on. The increasing amount of plastic in the ocean also poses threats to many endangered aquatic species, but you can do your part to help! Cutting down on single-use plastic helps keep harmful items out of our ocean and helps to protect these animals.

Learn more about our conservation efforts and the actions you can take to protect the world’s endangered species!

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