On his first trip to Galapagos as CEO of Galapagos Conservation Trust, Ian Dunn will be writing regular entries on this blog. Be sure to check for updates as Ian shares his experiences observing first-hand the challenges facing Galapagos, the successes of conservation efforts and the wildlife and wild places that make the archipelago so famous.
Galapagos Conservation Trust is very active in supporting various projects on Floreana and today I was able to see the enormously positive outcome of that work. Early, and as the light was strengthening, we headed out in a small boat called a panga to see Champion Island – home to some 65 of the remaining 400 Floreana mockingbirds. These critically endangered birds are no longer present on the island of their namesake and survive on just two off-shore islands. Although it wasn’t possible to land, we had a fabulous sight of a number of these iconic birds close to the shoreline. They were clearly inquisitive and gave every appearance of intelligence. The re-introduction of the Floreana mockingbird to the main island would be a noteworthy achievement on a global scale.
This led later in the day to joining Island Conservation (IC) on an aerial survey of Floreana, using a helicopter to map vegetation density. Vegetation density is the main guide to determining dosing levels for the eventual eradication of the introduced rats that have devastated so much of the endemic wildlife. With a superb view of the island, the IC team were highly efficient, highly aware of both cost and impact of their job, and thoroughly professional. For eradication to work there is a need for complete success. Yet, due to the very high cost of the operation (and as good practice) there is a need to not over-bait. Floreana is a large island, inhabited and with difficult terrain combining National Park, agricultural land and settled areas. So, while a very complex project with many pros and cons, rat eradication is required for the re-introduction of the critically endangered mockingbird and other endemic species to have any chance of success.