Galapagos and Beyond: March 2015 Roundup

March 31, 2015

This month’s roundup includes an exciting update on the Mangrove Finch Project in Galapagos, a brief video on Galapagos tortoises from CNN, a special Earth Day campaign with Free World United, and a Lonesome George story and art. Enjoy! 


Mangrove Finch Program Kicks Off Second Year

Mangrove finch fledglingFewer than 100 mangrove finches remain in the world, all in one small mangrove forest in Galapagos. Their rapidly declining population is largely due to the introduced, parasitic fly Philornis downsi, which causes up to 95% mortality of nestlings. In an attempt to help these critically endangered birds, the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park launched the Mangrove Finch Project in 2014 in collaboration with San Diego Zoo Global and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The project involved researchers collecting mangrove finch eggs from the wild and hand-rearing the chicks in a facility protected from the deadly Philornis fly. 

Mangrove finch hatchlingsIn the project’s first year, a total of 15 fledglings were safely released back into their native habitat after being reared in captivity — considerably boosting the total population of mangrove finches in Galapagos. Following last year’s success, the project team collected 30 eggs from this year’s nesting season in February 2015 and started the process of hand-rearing them — a task that requires up to 15 feedings a day. Once the chicks have fledged and are feeding independently, they will be released back into the wild by the project team. This intensive conservation management project continues to foster hope for this rare species of Darwin’s finches.


CNN Video: New Hope for Galapagos Tortoises

New Hope for Galapagos Tortoises on CNN VideoCNN produced a brief video this month featuring GC’s Science Advisor, Dr. Linda Cayot, discussing the recent discovery of baby tortoise hatchlings on Pinzón Island for the first time in decades — the result of long-time conservation efforts by the Galapagos National Park and its many collaborators. Baby tortoises have been thriving on many of the islands in Galapagos over the past 100 years, but introduced black rats eliminated all hatchlings and/or eggs on Pinzón for more than a century. The rats were successfully eradicated in December 2012, and we are now seeing surviving hatchlings on Pinzón. Watch the video clip.


“Earth Day Army” Campaign with Free World United

Earth Day Army selfieOur friends at Free World United, the hip t-shirt company for a good cause, have designed a special t-shirt for Earth Day — from which $5 per tee will go towards Galapagos conservation! In addition to purchasing the t-shirt, which includes a Galapagos tortoise in the design, we invite you to join Free World United’s special social media campaign called Earth Day Army, or #EDA. Joining the campaign is easy: simply take a “selfie” while wearing the EDA t-shirt and doing something positive for the planet (like planting a tree). Upload your photo to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram on Earth Day (April 22, 2015) and tag #EDA, @FreeWorldUnited, and @GalapagosConservancy. Everyone who participates in the campaign will be eligible to win a $150 gift card from Free World United, among a host of other prizes. If social media isn’t for you but you still want to help, simply purchase the tee in order for $5 to be donated towards conservation efforts in Galapagos.


NPR Story: Preserving Lonesome George

Taxidermist George Dante with preserved Lonesome GeorgeWhen Lonesome George — the last known tortoise from Pinta Island — died in the summer of 2012, his body was frozen and shipped 3,000 miles from Galapagos to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. The plan was to preserve the body of this beloved tortoise, who became an international conservation icon, via the capable hands of master taxidermist George Dante of Wildlife Preservations. Capturing the spirit of this famous tortoise wasn’t easy, and it took nearly a year and a half to complete. Lonesome George was then placed on exhibit at AMNH for several months in the fall of 2014, with plans to be returned to Galapagos in 2015. Read about the process of preserving Lonesome George. Photo of George Dante with Lonesome George at AMNH © JargaPix Photography


Lonesome George Wire Art by Colleen R. Cotey

Wire sculpture of Lonesome GeorgeWe recently asked our Facebook fans what they are currently doing, or plan to do, to protect the Galapagos Islands in 2015. We received many wonderful responses, including a comment from award-winning Washington-based wildlife artist Colleen R. Cotey, who created the remarkable wire sculpture of Lonesome George pictured here. Colleen informed us that, in addition to providing information on Galapagos Conservancy (and the Islands in general) to visitors of her gallery openings, she intends to create other Galapagos-themed sculptures and donate 10% of their sales to GC. Colleen has created life-sized wolf packs for Wolf Haven International in Tenino, Washington, a 15-foot humpback whale for the Tacoma Children’s Museum, and many other pieces. Her primary objective as an artist is to raise awareness of species and habitats that are in trouble. Consider us impressed! We invite you to visit her website and Facebook page.


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