Guest blog by Imogen Kempton
On Wednesday 30 October, at the Royal Geographical Society in London, we came together to celebrate and show support for one of the most uniquely biodiverse, but increasingly under threat places on Earth – the Galapagos Islands. From highlighting the detrimental effects that plastic is having on the Islands, to sparking hope and optimism in an all too often-bleak world of conservation, Galapagos Day emphasised the incredible efforts being made to protect this environmental mecca.
We were warmly welcomed by Galapagos Conservation Trust’s (GCT) Chair, Charmian Caines, who introduced His Excellency, the Ambassador of Ecuador, who we were honoured could attend and address the audience. In addition, Norman Wray, Minister of the Governing Council of Galapagos travelled from the Islands to provide context for the evening and discuss the conservation impacts from the point of view of the Galapagos community. We were lucky to have the much-acclaimed zoologist and conservationist, Mark Carwardine, host the evening’s three lectures delivered by GCT partners and scientists.
Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez kicked things off, talking about his current research on plastic pollution, its impact on wildlife and his input into GCT’s Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos programme. The talk was hard hitting and highlighted the urgency with which we all need to act to reduce plastic waste. The lecture contained many fascinating clips and statistics – one of which stated that ‘every toothbrush we have ever used still exists somewhere on the planet today’. A simple fact that emphasised everyone’s duty to do their bit to stop our reliance on plastics.
Dr Luis Ortiz-Catedral, who GCT has been supporting for more than five years, then took to the stage to deliver an inspiring talk, celebrating the uplifting conservation stories he has been involved in. Most notably, his work to relocate 5000 land iguanas from North Seymour island to Santiago, where they have been locally extinct since the early 20th century as a result of invasive cats and goats. Now rid of these invasive species, Santiago island can recover naturally with land iguanas roaming the island once again. Luis also spoke of his work to monitor populations of Galapagos racer snakes on Champion and Gardner islets. This is an essential part of GCT’s Floreana programme, which aims to reintroduce this species back to Floreana, once we have successfully remove invasive predators.
Sophia Cooke, from the University of Cambridge, gave a hugely inspiring and captivating final talk. Beginning with her first trip to Galapagos, Sophia described how she developed an ongoing interest in the introduced smooth-billed ani. A combination of determination, commitment, drive and a fairytale raffle win enabled Sophia to embark on a path to explore the impacts of these birds. It was impressive to see the various contraptions Sophia designed, and made, to trap the birds for her studies. Her independence and commitment to undertake such a large research project at the same time as her PhD is awe inspiring, and no doubt encouraged other budding conservationists to embark on their own path to Galapagos.
Guests had a chance to stroll through this years’ GCT’s annual Galapagos Photography Exhibition, kindly sponsored by Aqua-Firma, as well as Falmouth University’s exhibition of their latest field trip to the Islands.
Lastly, we would like to thank the sponsors, including Bespoke Hotels and Quasar Expeditions, and attendees who contributed to making the evening such a fantastic, informative and inspiring one.