Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Gift Establishes Endowed Chair In Wild Cat Studies At A&M-Kingsville

KINGSVILLE - August 29, 2008

Contact: Julie Navejar
julie.navejar@tamuk.edu or 361-593-2590

Rancher-conservationist Frank Yturria donates $500,000 to continue wild cat research

Rancher and conservationist Frank Yturria has been taking care of endangered ocelots on his ranch in South Texas for over 25 years. He has now taken his conservation work one step further by donating $500,000 to the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI) at Texas A&M University-Kingsville to start the Frank Daniel Yturria Endowed Chair in Wild cat Studies in the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences.

The endowed chair was announced today, Friday, Aug. 29, at a luncheon at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Center. Dr. Michael Tewes, Regents Professor, will be the first to fill the endowed chair.

“This is a landmark gift because of the nature of the work that will be accomplished,” said Dr. Fred Bryant, Leroy G. Denman Jr. Director of Wildlife Research for the CKWRI. “With Michael Tewes here at the institute, we have one of the top three experts in wild cat ecology in the nation and one of the top 10 worldwide. Important work on cats will be done and done well on behalf of the university, the institute and especially, the wild cats of the region.

“Having Frank Yturria’s name on this endowment speaks volumes because he is one of the great South Texas conservationists of our time. We deeply appreciate Mr. Yturria for making this endowed chair possible,” Bryant said.

Yturria opened his ranch in Kenedy and Willacy counties, northeast of Raymondville, to Tewes and his work with the endangered ocelots over 25 years ago and about 20 years ago, set up a perpetual conservation easement on the ranch that protects key ocelot habitat.

“Mr. Yturria has a long history of helping ocelots in Texas. He has supported our ocelot monitoring financially and by allowing us access to his ranch for over 25 years and saved one of only two ocelot populations remaining in the United States from going extinct,” Tewes said. “We have trapped a couple dozen ocelots through our monitoring during that time. From this research, I believe the ocelots on Mr. Yturria’s ranch represent the core or heartbeat of the ocelot population located north of the Rio Grande Valley.”

“The endowed chair will establish a perpetual program to study and manage the ocelot, bobcat and cougar in Texas for many generations to come,” he added. “Mr. Yturria’s action will help keep these exquisite wild cats in their native habitat and adorning the Texas landscape well beyond the 21st century.”

Yturria’s $500,000 gift was matched by the Caesar Kleberg Foundation for Wildlife Conservation creating a $1 million endowment.

About Frank Yturria

In addition to owning a large ranch with beef cattle and horses, Yturria was founding director and chairman of the board of the National Bank of Commerce in Brownsville and the Texas Bank and Trust of Brownsville.

He was appointed to the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid of the U. S. Agency for International Development for a three-year term that ended in 2005. He was appointed to a six-year term as commissioner on the Texas Historical Commission and was appointed board member and chairman of the Inter-American Foundation. He is the only board member in the foundation’s 31-year history to serve two consecutive terms.

Yturria’s conservation efforts don’t stop at ocelots. As early as 1971, he was thinking about wildlife when he granted permission to a researcher from Texas Tech University to conduct a five-year ecological study of the Texas Desert Tortoise on his Cameron County property. Tewes was first granted permission to study ocelots on his land in 1982.

In 1986 and 1987, Yturria sold over 4,000 acres of land in Willacy, Hidalgo and Starr Counties to the United States government for a wildlife corridor and in 1989, he deeded his one-fourth interest in Clark Island and sold over 100 acres on Brazos Island to the U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service for preservation of pristine land for protection of marine and land wildlife.

In 1996, Yturria granted permission to The Peregrine Fund to build nesting sites on his property in Cameron County with release of peregrine falcon pairs there later the same year.

His efforts have not gone unanswered, as he was presented the Lone Star Land Steward Award in 2000 by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

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