2015 Galapagos Symposium: Conserving Endemic Species

Earlier in June, our Projects Manager, Jen, attended a symposium in San Francisco, focusing on conservation and science in the Galapagos Islands since the times of Darwin. The symposium drew researchers and conservationists from around the world together to share their findings on all things Galapagos.

We’ve picked out 5 fascinating research studies from the 2015 Galapagos Symposium to share with you, which link with the project areas we’re fundraising for through our recently launched Galapagos Future Fund. Here’s the first for you to sink your teeth into:

Conserving Endemic Species

The unique environmental conditions in Galapagos have driven the evolution of many plants and animals that are found nowhere else on Earth. Some of these species, such as mangrove finches, Galapagos giant tortoises and Floreana mockingbirds, are threatened with extinction. Through the Galapagos Future Fund we’re supporting projects that help to inform the long-term conservation of these special animals.

At the 2015 symposium, Birgit Fessl from the Charles Darwin Foundation spoke about landbird conservation in Galapagos.

At least 10 of the 20 endemic passerine bird species of Galapagos are threatened by extinction, including the mangrove finch of which there are only 80 individuals left in the world. The most imminent threat to their survival comes from an invasive fly, called Philornis downsi. This fly is an ectoparasite of the young finches when in its larval stage, and despite continued efforts to mitigate the effects of the fly, all attempts have been unsuccessful so far.


After a workshop co-funded by GCT and run by the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park, a working group of 15 institutions from 8 countries was set up to develop strategic plans for the control of this fly, with the aim of ensuring  long-term protection for these threatened birds.

With the help of San Diego Zoo, promising techniques for increasing the population of the mangrove finch have been trialled and are currently being reviewed as a potential way for preventing the extinction of this critically endangered species.

Scientists have also been working on understanding the ecology of the fly and have been working on plans to prevent the continued parasitism of the young birds. These include the use of avian-safe insecticides in bird nests, mating disruption or mass trapping using pheromones, and biological control using natural enemies.

Without world-class scientific research to inform effective conservation management plans, species extinctions will undoubtedly increase. But through pioneering projects and research such as described above, new methods for conserving endemic species can be tested and then put into practise.

The Galapagos Future Fund provides a platform to support these projects that are essential to safeguarding the future of the Archipelago’s unique wildlife, but this is only possible with your help. Please click here to make a donation to the Galapagos Future Fund and in turn make a difference to the future of the Galapagos.

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