Project: Marine Rapid Response Network
Partners: Galapagos National Park, Charles Darwin Foundation
Status: Funding for implementation being identified
Several factors threaten the health of many emblematic marine species in the Galapagos Islands (e.g. penguins, cormorants, albatross, sea lions, fur seals, marine iguanas, sea turtles, and cetaceans), including the rapidly expanding human population and tourism industry, the increase in contamination, maritime traffic and import of goods to the islands, introduced species, fishing, and also changes in ecosystem structure and resource availability due to climate change. However, there is no emergency network in place to rapidly detect sick, injured or dead marine wildlife, nor is there a systematic health monitoring system for diseases and health status in place. As a consequence, many animals that come ashore are simply left or buried on the beach, thereby losing important information about the cause of death and the health status of these species.
Scientists at the Charles Darwin Foundation have created a manual to establish the basis of a rapid response/stranding network, as well as the design for a first aid facility for injured marine animals. To create a rapid response network, several institutions in Galapagos have come together to determine the most effective methodology, organization, and implementation of a rapid response network, protocols, capacity building, and outreach. Scientists are currently collecting data from all the individuals found sick, injured, or dead throughout the archipelago, performing complete necropsies on dead specimens and clinical examinations of live specimens. For the latter, veterinary first aid care is provided to animals affected by anthropogenic effects, following established ethical criteria.
The objectives associated with this project are as follows:
- establish an emergency network for injured or sick marine wildlife, coordinated between the main populated islands, including development of standardized protocols for animal management and sample collection in the field, as well as specific training for park rangers, CDF staff, and volunteers
- establish a baseline of the most relevant diseases concerning the species being studied from literature research and field sampling and estimate the incidence of anthropogenic effects regarding various causes of death
- inform local stakeholders to raise awareness and involve them in passive surveillance
Successful implementation of health surveillance will require specialized staff supported by trained volunteers. Through a series of workshops, National Park rangers, CDF staff, and local volunteers will be trained in animal management, standardized protocols, emergency network operation, and sample collection. Local stakeholders will also be informed through a series of community talks on the four main islands to raise awareness and foster community involvement.
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