Why is this project important?
Wildlife enthusiasts around the world will be keenly aware of the unique biodiversity and abundance of marine life found in the Galapagos Islands. Lesser known, however, are the dangers facing the various species that live there, many of which are endemic to the Archipelago.
Perhaps one of the more well-known species found in the waters surrounding the Islands is the scalloped hammerhead shark. While being one of the animals at the top of the food chain, they are facing a persistent threat themselves in the form of overfishing. Their numbers have been reducing rapidly in recent years due to increasing commercial fishing interest driven by the popularity of shark fin soup. While steps have been taken to address this problem, such as the expansion of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), more needs to be done to protect these unique animals once they leave the protection of the GMR. To help support the long-term protection of the endangered sharks of Galapagos, we have developed a children’s storybook to increase awareness of the dangers facing the species. It is inspired by the proposed formation of a protected ‘swimway’ in the waters between Galapagos and Cocos Island, a common migratory route for a number of endangered marine species. We hope that educational initiatives such as these will help promote interest in conservation efforts within the Archipelago. This is especially important in Galapagos as an estimated 90% of children living there have never visited the Galapagos National Park, which makes up 97% of the Islands.
Our task is to help develop children’s understanding of the environmental threats facing Galapagos.
We hope to achieve this through our latest educational project: the Galapagos Storybook. The storybook offers a fun, engaging and informative way for children to gain awareness of the issues facing the Islands. It follows the journey of Marti, a hammerhead shark, from her nursery in the mangroves of San Cristobal island, Galapagos to Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Marti has been tagged by scientists, allowing her journey through the swimway to be followed. Along the way, she encounters industrial fishing boats, seeing first-hand the damage that they can do to marine life. Though managing to navigate these dangers during her journey, Marti’s unfortunate experience with fishing trawlers draws attention to the issues facing marine life in and around the Galapagos Islands. The story gives children the opportunity to develop an understanding of the impact commercial fishing has on marine life in the waters surrounding Galapagos.
The book’s colourful illustrations, coupled with its exciting storyline, will be engaging to children in our target age group of 6 – 10 years and is also an accessible way for older family members to learn about the science going on in Galapagos. We believe this will help to develop both children and their family members’ understanding of, and interest in, the challenges facing marine life in Galapagos and how we can work to protect them.
We’ve set up a Crowdfunding campaign.
We have set up a Crowdfunding campaign to support the production and distribution of the storybook in Galapagos. All proceeds from the Crowdfunded will go towards an initial printing run of 2000 copies and will help cover the cost of printing, design and postage together with other set-up costs. We are aiming to donate to schools a pack of 30 books, posters and lesson activities to every school in Galapagos. The storybook will also be printed in English in the UK.
The Crowdfunding campaign is now live, and at the time of writing, has reached over 10% of its £7500 target! While this is a great start, there is more to do in the 3 weeks that remain of the campaign. If you would like to support the project, please head over to our Crowdfunder here.
Meet a member of our shark science team – Alex Hearn:
Working closely with us on this project is Dr. Alex Hearn, a specialist in the study of fish movements and marine conservation. His main research interest is the connectivity of migratory sharks in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. This interest began after joining the Charles Darwin Foundation in Galapagos as Coordinator of Fisheries Research, a position he worked in between 2002 and 2008. In 2006, he led the Shark Research Program in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which relied on the development of a regional network of collaborating researchers, and aimed to highlight the importance of oceanic islands in supporting the protection of threatened shark species. His research has been published in several peer-reviewed journals and featured in a number of documentaries, including David Attenborough’s ‘Galapagos in 3D’, and the third season of National Geographic’s ‘Shark Men’.