Students celebrate Endangered Species Day at the Shedd Aquarium

Several kinds of rhinos, a number of big cats and primates top the world’s endangered animals list, and 48 threatened or endangered species call the Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium home.

On Endangered Species Day, FOX 32’s Kristen Nicole shows us how those creatures ended up in Chicago.

On Friday, inquisitive minds at the Shedd Aquarium got a little more than up-close and personal to some of the creatures. The students got lessons on how 48 species ended up on a list that they have learned about in school.

FOX 32: Do you know what endangered species means?

“It means like when they go extinct or there's not a lot left or kinda rare,” said Morgan Rutledge.

One of the big attractions was the Exuma Rock Iguana. Native to the Bahamas, he's enjoyed basking on his perch at the Shedd for years.

What makes this guy so interesting is the fact that he was confiscated from Florida back in the 1990's and actually became the focus of a major criminal investigation.

Turns out, smugglers sold him for profit to an illegal pet dealer in Florida. There were nine iguanas altogether. 

And what the research experts had done years before in their native Bahamas was key when it came time for the trial.

“The research that Shedd Aquarium has been doing over the past 20 years led directly to their conviction because it was used as evidence in the case,” said Dr. Chuck Knapp.

There are other interesting survival stories around the Shedd. Kaitlyn Keegan fell hard for ‘Nickel.’

FOX 32: What's your favorite so far?

“The turtles,” Keegan said. “Because they're cute.”

The Green Sea Turtle was rescued after being injured by a boat, and still swims a little funny despite lots of rehab. 

The experts say to admire them on your visit today, and do something to help them tomorrow.

“The fact is, these animals are endangered for a reason and it's because of what we're doing as human species,” Dr. Knapp said.

And once they're gone, they're gone forever.