Much of the flora and fauna that make up the ecosystems of Galapagos are unique to the Islands and therefore not found anywhere else in the world. Galapagos has reached a critical point in its history, however, due to new challenges brought by human colonisation and global issues such as climate change, one slight change could be catastrophic to the already small populations and limited range of these special creatures.
Worryingly, over 50 Galapagos species are now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, and a further 22 are endangered, including some very familiar creatures. These include eight critically endangered vertebrate species: Santiago & Espanola giant tortoises, pink land iguana, mangrove finch, medium tree-finch, Floreana mockingbird, waved albatross and Galapagos petrel. There are also eight vertebrate species listed as endangered: Galapagos fur seal, green turtle, Western Santa Cruz & southern Isabela giant tortoises, San Cristobal mockingbird, Galapagos Martin, Galapagos penguin and Galapagos sea lion. Also, there are several endangered marine megafaunas, including the whale shark, and 20 critically endangered plants.
Why are they in trouble?
Invasive species are a key reason as to why the populations of many Galapagos species are declining. Introduced both accidentally and on purpose, these non-native species are detrimental to Galapagos. They out-compete endemic species for resources and often predate on naive species that evolved without large land predators.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are also major threats to many species in the Archipelago due to increasing urbanisation on the Islands; the larger the population, the larger the scale of land-use for both construction and agricultural developments. Increased pressures from human activity such as tourism, pollution and overexploitation of natural resources are incredibly harmful to the local ecosystems. However, GCT and other partners are working together to try to reverse the negative effects of development and human population growth.
Extreme climatic events are also affecting native species. The evolution of animals on Galapagos occurred over many millions of years to get them to where they are today, and right now, they are now facing changes occurring much faster than they can adapt to.
Donate now to play a part in the saving some of the Islands’ most endangered species, whether they inhabit air, land or sea.
AIR case study: Medium tree-finch
There are five critically endangered bird species in Galapagos. One of these is the medium tree-finch, which has an estimated population of fewer than 1,700 individuals. Its status on the IUCN Red List was updated from vulnerable to critically endangered in 2009 due to its decreasing population and restricted range. It is endemic to Floreana island and used to be found along the coast, as well as in the highlands. However, its range is now restricted to the latter due to habitat destruction caused by agriculture and invasive species. In addition, it is one of the native bird species affected by the invasive fly Philornis downsi, which parasitizes chicks, often killing all of the chicks in a nest.
We are working with partners on a project to restore Floreana island to its former ecological glory. Medium tree-finch population numbers are at a critical level, but with your support, we can reverse the fortunes of these birds.
LAND case study: Galapagos giant tortoise
The Galapagos giant tortoise is iconic to the Islands. Out of the ten surviving species of Galapagos giant tortoise, two are endangered (Western Santa Cruz and Southern Isabela), and two are critically endangered (Santiago and Espanola). In addition to the historical devastation of their populations by sailors and whaling crews, Galapagos giant tortoises face a range of threats today. These include predation of eggs and hatchlings by invasive rats and feral cats, competition for food resources with introduced goats, and human-tortoise conflict affecting their ancient migration routes. To conserve them effectively, we need to know more about their life histories specifically during their ‘lost years’ between hatching and adulthood, about which we currently know very little.
Projects such as the tortoise tracking work that we support with your help are crucial for the survival of these iconic species.
SEA case study: Whale shark
The whale shark is an indicator of the health of the oceans around Galapagos. The cleaner the water the more abundant the plankton – the whale shark’s main food source. The Galapagos Islands are an important area for the whale shark, the status of which was updated from vulnerable to endangered on the IUCN Red List due to its continued global decline. When in Galapagos waters, whale sharks are protected by the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), but elsewhere they are still face global threats including shark finning and fishery bycatch. Advances are being made in our knowledge of how whale sharks use the Archipelago, but we need to understand where the whale sharks that visit the GMR come from to inform effective conservation management of their migration routes.
Through use of new technology, we are striving to ensure that whale sharks are conserved throughout their range.
Our mission is to reduce the number of endangered species in Galapagos, by minimising the threats against them before it is too late. Please support our work in the Enchanted Isles and help us to protect the endangered species of Galapagos by donating today!