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June 27, 2013
The Ministry of the Environment (MAE), working through the Galapagos National Park (DPNG), carried out a three-month census of nesting Petrels on San Cristóbal Island in Galapagos. The Galapagos petrel, Petrel phaeopygia, is a nocturnal seabird that is listed as critically threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The park rangers’ work involved long walks, crossing muddy wetlands and scaling down canyon walls to find these nests, but the goal of protecting these species was motivation enough. These nests are at risk due to the presence of introduced species, such as feral cats and rodents.
Monitoring teams examine defined plots of five square meters each to determine if there are active nests, defined by the presence of adults, chicks, eggs, or traces of feathers, remains of food, or excrement. During the census, park rangers Víctor Díaz and Fabricio Sayo recorded nest condition and positions with the help of global positioning (GPS) devices, adding this information to the DPNG’s data base as baseline information for future checks. After logging the information, park rangers cleaned the nest sites and placed bait to control rodents and feral cats.
Inspecting eight sites previously identified as active nesting areas, park rangers found 294 nests, 47 of which were new and 25 were abandoned. At the same time, the rangers were able to verify that five nests were destroyed by landslides and two by other animals.
The result of this census confirmed that 70 percent of the current nests are active. The information obtained will inform management efforts to maintain or increase the population of Galapagos petrels.