Combating Invasive Species in Galapagos with the ABG

Combating Invasive Species in Galapagos with the ABG


Supporting the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency to Combat Invasive Species


Galapagos Biosecurity Agency (ABG)


Funded in 2014; ongoing


Galapagos sniffer dog

A trained “sniffer” dog inspects cargo in Galapagos. (Photo © ABG)



The Agency for the Regulation and Control of Biosecurity and Quarantine for Galapagos (ABG – its Spanish acronym) was established by the Ecuadorian government in 2012. The mission of the ABG is to control, regulate, prevent, and reduce the risk of introduction, movement, and dispersal of exotic organisms in Galapagos. Their work involves inspection and control at ports and airports, surveillance, monitoring, control of pests and diseases in Galapagos, and rapid response to phytozoosanitary (food safety) emergencies.

Galapagos Conservancy has provided support to the ABG since 2014 through a variety of activities related to the detection and control of introduced species in the Islands. Some of the support has been directed to NGOs working on ABG projects, while others have been direct support to ABG. Key projects include:

Detection Dogs for the Giant African Land Snail – Funded in 2014

A snail detection dog in GalapagosThis project involved deploying a canine unit of two dogs, in collaboration with the US-based organization Dogs for Conservation, that were specially trained to detect the invasive Giant African Land Snails on Santa Cruz Island so that these harmful snails could be eradicated. Since the canine unit was implemented, Labrador retrievers Darwin and Neville have contributed substantially to the number of snails eliminated from the island. Read more about this project.

Humane Pet Management in Galapagos – Funded in 2014

In this project, the ABG partnered with Animal Balance, an organization that provided training to Ecuadorian veterinarians to spay and neuter cats in Galapagos. Specifically, this project funded veterinarians from Animal Balance to train ABG vets in less invasive spay and neuter procedures that require fewer medicines and less recovery time than traditional spay and neuter methods, and included a comprehensive program to educate the local community about responsible pet ownership. As a result of this work, Animal Balance and ABG signed a formal agreement to work together to continue to control the population of cats and dogs and Galapagos in a humane manner. Read more about this project.

Animal Balance spay/neuter clinic

Implementation of New Prevention Techniques for the Biosecurity of Galapagos – Funded in 2015

This project allowed for the expansion of the ABG’s work in a variety of areas, including:

  • Implementation of an additional canine unit with two dogs, Rex and Vino, trained to detect banned products entering the Islands;
  • Development of new technologies to collect and control non-native insects at points of embarkation to Galapagos (including Quito and Guayaquil);
  • Creation of a knowledge base of animal health in Galapagos, with a focus on pigs;
  • Establishment of a system to create baseline information on agro-food production in the Islands; and
  • Implementation of passive surveillance activities through educating and engaging the local community about introduced species.

With these programs now in effect, ABG has increased its capacity to ensure the biosecurity of the Galapagos Islands for the future.

Sterilization and Diagnostic Clinic for Pets – Funded in 2016

This project funded the remodeling of an ABG-owned building into a permanent sterilization and diagnostic center for pets in Galapagos to help with the ongoing management of the cat and dog population, and to provide a facility for proper veterinary care. The clinic was inaugurated in June of 2016 and is now well-utilized by the community.

Pet sterilization clinic in Galapagos

Control and Monitoring of Invasive Ants – Funded in 2017

In this project, the ABG will develop activities to ensure more efficient control of invasive ant species in order to reduce the possibility of their successful establishment in Galapagos. Introduced ants can displace endemic ants and contribute to a decline in populations of endemic reptiles and birds. Two new invasive ant species have been detected in modes of transport bound for the Islands — the big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala) and the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) — both of which are listed among the 100 worst invasive organisms worldwide, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Detection, control and monitoring of these species will reduce the risk of introduction from the mainland and their potential impact on the endemic flora and fauna of Galapagos. This project expands on work conducted by the Charles Darwin Foundation in the past several years to control and eradicate invasive ant species.

Photo credits: Snail detection dog “Darwin” © Rebecca Ross; Animal Balance clinic © Emma Clifford; GC’s Linda Cayot and ABG Director Marilyn Cruz at the sterilization clinic © ABG.

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