Skip navigation

Invasive species

Brown rat
© Ian Dunn

What are invasive species?

Invasive species are animals, plants, pathogens or fungi that thrive outside of their native range, subsequently interrupting and damaging the balance of flora and fauna within the local ecosystem.

They usually have the ability to grow quickly, causing harm to the original environment in many different ways. There are many invasive species in existence across the globe, introduced both deliberately and accidentally.

Invasive species are of particular concern for the conservation of islands like Galapagos. Despite their high levels of biodiversity, islands also have high levels of endemism. Island species also usually only exist in small numbers, making them particularly vulnerable to extinction. In fact, the majority of all recorded extinctions that have occurred on islands list invasive species as the primary cause. The isolation of the Galapagos Islands has prevented the immigration of new species over time. This means the native species here have few strong competitors or predators.

Invasive goats in Galapagos
Invasive goats in Galapagos © Charles Darwin Foundation

Invasive species in the Galapagos Islands

Since the Islands were first discovered in 1535, many species have been introduced by humans, mostly before we knew the impacts these species would have on the natural ecosystem. Some were deliberately brought to the Islands for agricultural and aesthetic purposes. Pigs, goats and chickens were brought to provide food, species such as domestic cats and dogs were brought for companionship, and many ornamental plants were introduced to create gardens. Other species were introduced unintentionally, including rats and various insects and pathogens. Today there are estimated to be almost 1,500 introduced species in the Galapagos Islands.

Philornis downsi
© Jen Jones
Invasive hill raspberry plant in Galapagos
© Ian Dunn

Controlling invasive species

A range of actions have been put into place in order to control, limit and eliminate the risk of any further invasive species entering the Islands. These range from scanning every visitor’s bag on arrival to and departure from the Islands, to capturing and removing invasive mammals and plants.

GCT is currently funding projects within Galapagos to support the Galapagos National Park Directorate in their mission to control invasive species. One of the invasive species posing the biggest threat to Galapagos wildlife is a species of parasitic avian vampire fly, Philornis downsi. The larvae of this fly feed on the eggs and hatchlings of many species of Galapagos land bird. This increases the mortality rate of the chicks, and has led to a decline in the population of many species of Darwin’s finch. Over the last few years, an international research network led by the Charles Darwin Foundation has significantly furthered the understanding of the biology of this fly, to produce an effective control plan to minimise its impact on Galapagos land birds.

GCT is also supporting partners in the restoration of Floreana island, which will involve the most ambitious eradication programme ever carried out on an inhabited tropical island. Once invasive rats and feral cats have been successfully removed from the island, the next phase will involve the reintroduction of locally extinct species, including iconic land birds such as the little vermilion flycatcher and the Floreana mockingbird.

Key invasive species in Galapagos

Avian vampire fly (Philornis downsi)

Avian vampire fly

The small land birds of Galapagos are particularly vulnerable to the invasive, parasitic fly species known as the avian vampire fly (Philornis downsi).
Find out more
Black rat in Galapagos

Black rat

The impact of invasive black rats is particularly severe in Galapagos due to the high numbers of endemic species, which have evolved in the absence of predators.
Find out more
Hill raspberry (Rubus niveus) in Galapagos

Hill raspberry

Since its introduction in 1968, the invasive hill raspberry has spread across the Galapagos Archipelago and is now considered one of the worst weeds affecting the Islands.
Find out more

Help the wildlife of Galapagos survive and thrive

There are many ways to support our vision for a sustainable Galapagos: why not adopt an animal, become a GCT member or donate today?

Find out more about invasive species...

Philornis © Jen Jones
26th Mar 2024
Invasive species Rewilding

How do we solve the problem of invasive species in Galapagos?

Invasive species are one of the biggest threats facing the Galapagos Islands. But just how big of a problem do they pose and what can we do to protect the native species of Galapagos?
Read more
Claudio Cruz standing next to his cow shed on Floreana
20th Sep 2022
Invasive species Island restoration

Restoring Floreana: A local perspective

Our Senior Philanthropy Manager, Kelly Hague, saw first-hand the fantastic impact that the Restoring Floreana project is going to have for the people and wildlife that call the island their home.
Read more
Lepidoptera larva from the Monarch butterfly in Galapagos
31st Aug 2022
Invasive species Island restoration

Restoring Floreana: Pre-eradication invertebrate surveys

In order to measure the impacts of eradication on the biodiversity of Floreana, we first need baseline data that represents the pre-eradication conditions.
Read more
15th Jun 2022
Invasive species

A Network to catch Marine Invasive Species

The Galapagos Islands are under threat from marine invasive species. Scientists at the Charles Darwin Foundation, together with their collaborators, are developing protocols for the prevention, detection, and management of marine invasive species in...
Read more

Get the latest news from Galapagos

Join our mailing list to receive our monthly email newsletter, bringing you the latest news on Galapagos and our work to protect the Islands.

Hidden
Share This Page