Exciting news about Española giant tortoises, a first-hand account of the mysterious "Galapagos Affair," the latest tourism report from Galapagos and more make up our October roundup. Enjoy!
Study: Conservation Success Story for Española Giant Tortoises
A study published this week in PLOS ONE reported that efforts to reintroduce the endemic Española giant Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis) have been successful. This is significant given that in the 1960s, the population of Española tortoises had declined to only 15 individuals. The tortoises were captured and bred in captivity, and in 1975 the first offspring were released back to the island. Over the last nearly 40 years, more than 2,000 have been repatriated to Española. According to the study, today approximately half of those tortoises survived and many are now breeding naturally on the island — and their population is considered stable, making the risk of future extinction low.
On the flip side, the study found that ecological resources for continued population growth are increasingly limited due to damage inflicted by feral goats that were brought to the island in the late 19th century. Although the goats were eradicated in 1978, the long-term impacts have created a habitat such that the tortoise population is not likely to increase until more of the landscape recovers. Dr. James Gibbs of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is lead author of the paper, and GC's Science Advisor Dr. Linda Cayot and Galapagos-based GTRI director Wacho Tapia served as co-authors. Read the study, and find out how GC is working to restore tortoise habitats in Galapagos.
Satan Came to Eden: A Survivor's Account of the "Galapagos Affair"
Many people who visit Galapagos hear the story of the eccentric European couple who first colonized Floreana in the 1930s and of the mysterious “Galapagos Affair,” but few are privy to the fascinating details of their adventures on this isolated island. For the first time in 80 years, the true-life memoir of Dore Strauch is back in print — and her story is as remarkable as the geology and wildlife which surrounded her ramshackle home. In this fresh edition of Satan Came to Eden, Strauch recounts her and Dr. Frederick Ritter's often bizarre struggle from a survivor's point of view, supplemented with previously unpublished photographs by editor Joseph Troise. The book is available on Amazon Smile, the charity arm of Amazon.com, on which you may designate Galapagos Conservancy to receive a percentage from your purchase.
Video: Galapagos Penguins Feeding Underwater
We've periodically featured the iGalápagos website in this space, in which visitors' photos of Galapagos penguins are being utilized by Dr. Dee Boersma to inform research and conservation efforts for the critically endangered birds. Photos submitted to iGalápagos.org are being used to help determine where penguins are located across the Islands, the population size, whether and when they are breeding and molting, and their overall body condition. Recently one user submitted a video that "excellently captures a foraging adult and juvenile penguin" at Punta Vicente Rocca, Isabela Island in April of this year. You can watch this and other videos and see visitor-submitted photos on the iGalápagos website (and submit your own!). Read more about the artificial penguin nest project Dr. Boersma is working on with funding from GC.
Report: Galapagos Tourism Continues to Increase
According to a recent report from the Galapagos National Park Directorate, a total of 108,322 visitors entered the Galapagos protected natural areas during the first half of 2014. Of these, the vast majority (69%) were from foreign countries, with the United States representing nearly half of those visits. The UK, Canada, Germany, Argentina, and Australia together made up another one-third of visitors. These figures represent an 8% increase from 2013, but a slight slowing down from the previous year’s 12% increase. While tourism management in Galapagos represents one of many challenges faced by conservationists in the archipelago, visitors to the Islands remain some of the most dedicated supporters and advocates for Galapagos conservation.
Recap: Galapagos Photo-a-Day for October
Every year during October, we feature the photos selected to appear as small details in our annual calendar on Facebook each day for the entire month. We consider these photos "honorable mentions" to the 12 overall winning photos in the annual GC photo contest, and our fans love the daily dose of Galapagos they get in their news feeds — from majestic sea birds like the waved albatross to the ever-iconic blue-footed booby and giant tortoise. If you use Facebook, you can view them all on our Facebook page...or find them in our 2015 calendar, available now in our store!