Galapagos Islands: Parks and Protected Areas

Submitted by The Catt-Trax2 Team on Mon, 2007/01/08 - 11:03am.

Report prepared by Meaghan Leslie-Gottschligg and Scott Grimsrud, students in BCIT's Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program.

There are two protected areas in the Galapagos: the Galapagos National Park (created in 1959), which makes up ninety-seven percent of the land area and the Galapagos Marine Reserve (created in 1998) which is the 2nd largest marine reserve in the world. These areas are administered by the Ecuadorian National Park Service. Within the protected areas there are three subsystems: land park, marine area, and human use areas.

One of the major management issues is the control of introduced species. Project Isabela is one example of a success story in the elimination of an invasive species from one of the islands. The island of Isabela supports forty percent of the fauna and sixty-six percent of the endemic flora of the Galapagos with eighty percent of surviving Galapagos giant tortoises living on northern Isabela. Early settlers brought in domestic animals and plants to multiply and serve as a fresh source of meat on later visits which have now spread across large parts of the archipelago. Goats were first seen in the mid 1970s in small numbers. Some of these animals have become feral and are having a detrimental effect on the native flora and fauna. Left unchecked feral goats will cause irreparable damage to the island's ecosystems, leading to the extinction of endemic plants and animals.

Project Isabela is a long-term ecological restoration initiative jointly managed by the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station. The project is being carried out on northern Isabela island, the largest block of relatively non-disturbed land in the Galapagos. The goal of the project is to prevent the establishment of feral goats. The consequences of having the goats on the island includes out-competing tortoises in grazing, altering microclimates critical to tortoise survival, increasing biological stress levels on tortoises, suffering of other endemic plants, insects, animals and birds and erosion.

The projects are being carried out in three phases:

  1. Aerial hunting when the number of goats is high and they are in places that are difficult to access.
  2. Using specially trained dogs paired with hunters to locate and shoot the goats.
  3. Using radio-telemetry after their numbers have been significantly reduced.

As of April 2006 the population of feral goats on northern Isabela was eradicated. In the process feral donkeys, pigs, and several invasive plant species were also eradicated. The entire project took eight years to complete.

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