AUSTIN (KXAN) — Known for more than just giving visitors a look at life in and along our Texas beaches, the Texas State Aquarium ranks among the top programs in the country for wildlife rehabilitation. Recently, aquarists with the State Aquarium visited the Texas Capitol to showcase their newest life-saving tool — a Wildlife Rescue Vehicle.

Texas State Aquarium showcases new rescue vehicle at the Texas Capital in March 2023

The Texas State Aquarium, located in Corpus Christi, was deemed the “Official Aquarium of Texas” by Texas State Legislature in 1985 before officially opening its doors to the public in 1990. Since then, the aquarium has worked to fulfill its mission to “engage people with animals, inspire appreciation for our seas, and support wildlife conservation”.

In March of 2023, the aquarium opened a new 26,000-square-foot facility – the Port of Corpus Christi Center for Wildlife Rescue – and added a new vehicle to its fleet, the Wildlife Rescue Vehicle.

New Wildlife Rescue Vehicle used to transport distressed or injured wildlife

“We needed to figure out a way to move manatees around the coast,” says Jesse Gilbert, CEO of the Texas State Aquarium. “They might need air conditioning or heat depending on the time of year. And then it kind of dawned on us, an ambulance might really do that.”

Inside of Texas State Aquarium’s new Wildlife Rescue Vehicle

The wildlife rescue vehicle is mobilized and used for emergencies of all sorts. Following the historic winter storm of February 2021, the wildlife rescue team used the equipped vehicle to transport 1600 stunned sea turtles from the Gulf of Mexico.

The vehicle can be dispatched anywhere along the coast to transport injured or distressed animals, assist in oil spills, etc. Wildlife in need can then be moved to the aquarium’s Rehabilitation Center, where caregivers can utilize the only CT scanner certified for wildlife.

One of many animals that can be transported by the new rescue unit

“You might see a sea turtle going through, a dolphin, a Manatee, whatever it is. Maybe we need to figure out how to build a new flipper,” says Gilbert. “It’s using technology from the CT, to do 3D modeling. So that might give us the ability to do that.”

When the wildlife rescue vehicle is not in use, it is used as an educational tool for local schools and after-school programs.

The Texas State Aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To visit the aquarium or learn more about their wildlife rescue program, click here.