People Who Make A Difference: Dr. Pat Burchfield

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Dr. Pat Burchfield is the highly regarded director of the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. His renowned achievements for wildlife extend well beyond the confines of the zoo. He is also the guiding force behind perhaps the world's greatest international endangered species recovery program.
Burchfield began working at the zoo in 1971 when it opened and became director in 2007.
"I am one of those few individuals that you will meet that will say I've enjoyed every day of my life, because I am doing something I love. Working with animals." says Burchfield.
One of the primary reasons the zoo was built 47 years ago was to serve as a facility to care for and breed endangered species. In hopes that someday they may be reintroduced into the wild. From Lowland gorillas to Galapagos tortoises the zoo has been very successful.
Burchfield has also devoted decades to the recovery of the wild Ridley sea turtles. They were on the brink of extinction 40 years ago when he and others initiated a program to protect them on their primary nesting grounds at Rancho Nuevo just north of Tampico Mexico.
Thanks to the efforts of Burchfield and others in the United States along with their counterparts in Mexico, the Ridley sea turtle has made a miraculous recovery.
Dr. Burchfield said, "I saw an opportunity to try and do something meaningful, and that maybe we would have a shot at saving this species. So, my job was to do whatever I could do to help that happen, and in most instances, it was facilitating getting people together, agencies together, coordinating things."
The recovery has been so successful that in coming years the Ridley sea turtle may be removed from the endangered species list.
Dr. Burchfield added, "Probably 9,000 nesting females this year, so far and that is way up from the 283 that we had in 1985."


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