Restoring the habitats of Galapagos

One of the most urgent issues facing Galapagos is the impact that introduced invasive species are having, sometimes in ways that are not always obvious. Non-native plants, rats and parasitic flies have all been accidentally or deliberately introduced over the years and are causing havoc, especially to birds. But Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) is supporting several exciting projects restoring the natural habitats of the Islands such as eradicating rats, feral goats and cats, painstakingly removing avian vampire fly larvae (Philornis downsi) from nests, and clearing invasive blackberry plants to increase the survival of rare birds.

A non-native rat is sat on a bird nest eating an egg

Invasive rats devastate bird populations, eating eggs and chicks, particularly on islands © Ngā Manu Images

Restoring Floreana

We have in our sights, at last, the removal of invasives on Floreana – a huge step in efforts to protect 55 endangered species on this one island alone. Rats, feral cats and other invasives mean that 13 species are already extinct on Floreana, with some like the Galapagos racer snake and the Floreana mockingbird now hanging on, in tiny numbers, on a couple of small, rat-free islets. Floreana is home to around 140 people and, after many years of careful preparation, the baiting is set to happen in 2023. This project, to restore Floreana to its former glory, is recognised as one of the most important island restoration projects in the world.

A feral cat with a marine iguana in its mouth

Feral cats attack a range of endemic species including marine iguanas © Caroline Marmion

Once safe again, we will start to bring back to Floreana many of its missing species such as the Floreana mockingbird, Galapagos racer snake and large tree-finch. Older residents may once again by thrilled by the red flash of a little vermilion flycatcher, once so common on the island, but no longer found there.

The team is working hard to get the island ready for the baiting and is making preparations to ensure that the reintroductions go as smoothly as possible. This year, we are hoping to reintroduce the woodpecker finch back to Pinzon, another Galapagos island which is now safe following the successful eradication of rodents. What we learn will be incredibly useful for Floreana’s reintroductions.

Woodpecker finch © Heikki Kainulainen

If successful, reintroducing the woodpecker finch to Pinzon would help prepare for Floreana reintroductions © Heikki Kainulainen

The woodpecker finch will once more become a vital part of the ecological restoration of Pinzon. One of
Darwin’s finches, its reintroduction will also help inform conservation plans for the Critically Endangered
mangrove finch on Isabela island, whose entire remaining population of around 100 individuals is
restricted to just 30 hectares of two mangrove forests.

 

As Chief Executive for Galapagos Conservation Trust, I know that we have already helped save other species from the brink of extinction. But we need to move fast. Do you want a future where amazing wildlife exists on old television wildlife documentaries? I don’t. That’s why I urge you to support today’s appeal. Please give what you can. After all, how often can you say you helped save endangered species?!
Sharon Johnson, GCT Chief Executive


On the search for prey!


Before we reintroduce birds, it is crucial to ensure there will be enough food for them. This year, the team is working in the agricultural areas on Floreana, looking for invertebrates such as grasshoppers and spiders for any ground-feeding birds, and insects such as flies and moths for flycatchers. These surveys will be vital for measuring the success of the eradication in the future, as we hopefully watch populations grow.

A yellow and black silver argiope spider sits in the middle of its web

It is important to understand what prey exists before reintroducing locally extinct species © Sai Pathmanathan

Please can you help local communities?

Restoration work not only benefits wildlife, it also helps communities. In Galapagos, improved ecosystems will ensure that the Islands are more resilient to threats such as climate change. They also have a positive
socioeconomic impact by providing better opportunities for eco-tourism which Galapaguenians rely on. We are proud to be supporting partners including the Galapagos National Park, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Island Conservation, and the Charles Darwin Foundation, who are working to make this a reality, and we are excited to be taking one step closer to restoring the natural habitats of the Galapagos Islands!


Your donations will be matched up to £5,000!*


One of our wonderful supporters has offered to match any donation given of £300 or over, up to a total
amount of £5,000, as he is keen to help us raise as much as we can. We are hoping for at least £30,000 from this appeal towards the £100,000 total we need for our restoration work this year across the Islands.