June 1, 2018
Galapagos National Park rangers recently transferred six land iguanas of the species Conolophus subcristatus from the island of Venecia, located to the northwest of Santa Cruz Island, to the nearby visitor site Cerro Dragón. The shortage of rain, little food, and high population number of land iguanas on the island motivated the transfer as a management measure to ensure the survival of these individuals. Park rangers placed tracking devices on the six iguanas relocated in order to track and monitor their health status and survival in the new home.
Venecia did not originally have land iguanas, but in the mid-1970’s, part of the iguana population of Cerro Dragón was taken to the islet to protect them from the presence of wild dogs that threatened their existence. The initiative included the placement of a fence to prevent the dogs from crossing to the islet, which is separated by a narrow channel.
The control work on introduced species carried out by the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) in Cerro Dragón eliminated the wild dogs and made it a safer place so that the land iguanas could return to their natural habitat. The relocation began in 1990. Since then, the GNPD has carried out more than 100 transfers — especially during times of drought or lack of food — while at the same time controls are carried out on introduced predators such as donkeys and wild cats.
Land iguanas, or yellow iguanas, serve the function of natural herbivores in the islands in which they inhabit. They can measure more than three feet long and weigh up to 28 pounds. They eat mainly the fruit of the cactus plant.