2016 – a Galapagos year in review

2016 was an action-packed year for Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT). We reached many milestones throughout the year, achieved both financial and project targets and put in place some exciting plans for the coming three years. We could not have done it without the incredible support from our members and donors across the globe, and we thank each and every one of you for your continued assistance in the conservation of the most interesting Archipelago. Read on to see some of the highlights from Galapagos in 2016. We hope to increase and improve GCTs positive impacts and successful conservation projects during 2017.

Galapagos Marine Reserve extension

In March, we were thrilled to learn that the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) was extended, to cover a huge 40,000 square kilometers of ocean surrounding the Islands. This extension of the reserve is a huge help for the marine life of Galapagos because the local ecosystems benefit from high ecological diversity. These healthy numbers of marine animals subsequently benefit the residents of Galapagos as the larger areas of protection also create a higher concentration of marine life in the already nutrient rich waters of the Archipelago. This abundance of marine life increases the pleasure taken from visiting tourists thus producing a much higher profit margin for the local businesses than an unhealthy, overfished reef would. The new reserve held the title of largest marine reserve in the world for two months, before the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands was extended, overtaking the GMR at a whopping area size of 937,568 square kilometers, roughly twice the size of Texas.

Hammerhead Shark ©Johnathan Green

Hammerhead Shark ©Johnathan Green

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon adopts tortoise

In October, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visited Galapagos to encourage environmental protection for the World Heritage site for the benefit of Ecuador the and the global economy. During his trip, he visited the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre on Santa Cruz, where some giant tortoise eggs had recently hatched. The Galapagos National Park staff made Ban Ki Moon the godfather of Encantada, a giant tortoise hatchling. As giant tortoises can typically live for over a century, this was a perfect symbol for the wildlife of Galapagos entering into the global affairs community for the next hundred years.

Red-footed booby appears on a UK beach

In September, a red-footed booby arrived on the beach in West Sussex, close to Brighton on the south coast of the UK, looking hungry and tired. This was a shock as red-footed boobies are associated with Galapagos and tropical climes. Red-footed boobies have the largest range of the three booby species and are found in the Caribbean, the South-West Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

©RSPCA

©RSPCA

The people who discovered him gave him to the RSPCA who cared for him (and named him Norman) until he was back to full health. In the first week of December he was returned to the Caribbean by British Airways as he was determined to be of Caribbean origin, probably having been and was blown off course by this summer’s tropical storms.

Two men sentenced for attempting to transport sea cucumbers out of Galapagos

In 2015, restrictions were tightened around the fishing within the Galapagos Marine Reserve. However, in January, a huge shipment of illegal sea cucumbers was discovered. In March, two men were arrested in connection with the fishing and drying of over 3,712 of sea cucumbers from Galapagos waters, with the intent to transport the specimens to Baltra airport and on to mainland South America. It is thought the sea cucumbers were destined for Asia, where they are considered a delicacy and will fetch a high price. This arrest proves that the increased legislation has already had the intended effect of protecting the endangered wildlife.

sea-cucumber-conviction- ©GNP

Sea cucumber conviction ©GNP

Planet Earth II

Plant Earth, the stunningly beautiful, award-winning documentary captivated audiences in 2006. A decade later, the documentary series returned with Planet Earth II. Incredible footage filmed across the globe bya dedicated team of professionals using the highest quality cameras did not disappoint. During the first episode, the marine iguana hatchling and Galapagos racer scene was soon hailed across media outlets and internet posts as ‘the greatest scene in documentary history.’ The thrilling images increased interest surrounding the Islands, subsequently driving our website hits up and spreading the word of the incredible wildlife of Galapagos.

Written by Jenny Vidler – Communications and Membership Assistant