Galapagos and Beyond: April 2015 Roundup

April 30, 2015

This month’s roundup features an article on Floreana Island and plans for tortoise restoration, an update on the ban on plastic bags in Galapagos, new research on the invasive Philornis downsi fly, insight into managing the Galapagos pet population, and some fun penguin info for World Penguin Day. Enjoy! 

 

Floreana Island: Intrigue, Tradition, and Restoration

Post Office Bay

“Here at Post Office Bay on Floreana Island, visitors are in charge of delivering the mail. And there’s no Facebook, texting or tweeting allowed.” These words are from travel writer Simon Willis, who recently traveled to Galapagos and recounted his experience visiting Floreana on Travelmag. Willis also interviewed GC’s Science Advisor Dr. Linda Cayot on restoration efforts for the Floreana giant tortoise, which include an upcoming expedition to Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island, in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park Directorate, to collect hybrid tortoises with Floreana ancestry. Of all the Galapagos Islands, Floreana has experienced the greatest environmental degradation. Read more about this unique island and plans to restore the giant tortoise population.

 

Galapagos Phasing Out Plastic Bags by 2017

GNPD distributing plastic bags

Galapagos officials are in the process of phasing out plastic shopping bags and other plastic items in the Islands, with a goal to eliminate them entirely by 2017. Last December, the Galapagos National Park Directorate began delivering cloth bags to residents of the archipelago with support from Celebrity Xpedition’s Galapagos Fund, and people are increasingly putting them to use in the local markets. Plastics contribute to the deaths of countless seabirds, turtles, fish, and other marine animals worldwide each year, making the ban in Galapagos an important step (and example) for marine conservation efforts.

 

Invasive Parasitic Fly May Be from Mainland Ecuador

Philornis downsi article image

The parasitic fly Philornis downsi, a native of mainland South America, was accidentally introduced to the Galapagos Islands in the 1990s — with dire consequences for mangrove finches and other endemic species of land birds. Philornis larvae feed on the blood of nestlings, and can cause up to 95% mortality. While it is uncertain exactly how the fly arrived in the Islands, scientists have hypothesized that they came from mainland Ecuador, even though they had never been found there. New research reported in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America supports this hypothesis, as scientists have documented the parasitic fly at two sites near Ecuador’s coast. Researchers continue to study the fly in order to identify control and eradication methods.

 

Managing the Galapagos Pet Population

Parasite control station for pets in Galapagos

Many local residents of Galapagos own domestic pets like dogs and cats and, as is true elsewhere in the world, pet overpopulation has become a serious problem — particularly for endemic Galapagos wildlife, which may succumb to predation. This makes managing the pet population in Galapagos critical, through efforts to limit their population size and provide them with quality veterinary care to prevent disease. Darwin Animal Doctors, a non-profit organization providing free veterinary care in the Islands, is doing exactly that. Founder Tod Emko and Board Chair Andrea Gordon recently discussed some of the achievements they made in the past year through sterilization, education, and more in this month’s guest blog post. This important work offers a humane approach to managing the Galapagos pet population while simultaneously protecting native wildlife. 

 

Celebrating World Penguin Day 2015

A Galapagos penguin

April 25, 2015 marked World Penguin Day, a day dedicated to celebrating all the remarkable penguin species of the world. We’re partial to the Galapagos penguin (of course), which is the rarest and most endangered of all penguin species, and our favorite online resource is provided by penguin expert Dr. Dee Boersma of the University of Washington: igalapagos.org. Dr. Boersma is using photographs taken by Galapagos tourists and other visitors, which they can submit directly to her website, to inform research and conservation efforts for the penguins. The iGalapagos website provides comprehensive information on where to find penguins in Galapagos, what specifically to photograph, the biology of penguins, and more. In the spirit of World Penguin Day 2015, we would also like to share a stunning penguin slideshow compiled by the BBC featuring 15 marvelous penguin photos. Enjoy.

 

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