2030 SDGs

Eagles, bears and snapping turtles: wildlife returns to one of US' most famous rivers

©Ken Canning, Getty Images

The splash was so loud that environmental advocate Lewis Pugh thought someone had jumped off the bridge he was swimming under. But then Pugh, in the midst of a month-long swim down the United States’ Hudson River, saw what had joined him in the water: a bald eagle.

“This majestic creature spread its wings and lifted up right in front of us. I will never forget the sight of it,” says Pugh.

The British-South African, who is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Patron of the Ocean, has completed a 507km swim down the Hudson. The journey cast a spotlight on the river’s resurgence – and the need to protect the world’s waterways from pollution, climate change and a range of other threats.

The appearance of a bald eagle on the Hudson would have seemed nearly impossible a few decades ago. America’s national bird, they were on the verge of extinction in the northeastern United States, decimated by the widespread use of the pesticide DDT. But since a ban on the pesticide in 1972, the bald eagles have returned.

“This year, the locals say they have seen record numbers of these birds. What a wonderful success story,” says Pugh.

Read the full article on UNEP’s website

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