Galapagos Islands: Wildlife and Wildlife Management

Submitted by The Catt-Trax2 Team on Mon, 2007/01/08 - 11:00am.

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

There are a huge variety of wildlife species on the Galapagos. 140 species of birds have been counted in the area. Of the fifty-eight species of residential birds found in Galapagos, close to fifty percent are endemic. In Galapagos, many endemic bird species are threatened by the introduction of non-native plants and animals. Six introduced bird species have an unpredictable effect on the native avian species, as they compete for resources and can transmit disease. This being said, there has been no extinction of bird species in Galapagos.  

Of the twenty-three species of land reptiles on the islands, three are iguana species, seven are lava lizards, nine are geckos, three are snakes and the remaining one is the giant tortoise. The Galapagos giant tortoise has evolved into fourteen different races with three different shell types. Of the fourteen races, three have gone extinct, and one has only a single remaining survivor. Lonesome George is thought to be the last remaining giant tortoise from the island of Pinta. He is between seventy and eighty years old, weighs 88 kg, and lives in a breeding enclosure on Isabela Island.

Of the three iguana species, one is very different. The marine iguana is the only iguana in the world that spends time grazing on seaweed in the ocean.

There are few native mammals on the islands. The Galapagos sea lion and fur seal are the largest, weighing up to 250kg and 68kg respectively. Rice rats are nocturnal and eat plants. Seven species of rice rats are thought to have gone extinct and only three species remain. The Galapagos red bat is a nocturnal mammal about which not much is known. They are thought to hunt insects at night and roost in the mangroves during the day. The hoary bat (common in North America) is also found on the islands. It was thought that all native mice were extinct on the islands until the mid 1990s when the Fernandina Galapagos mouse and Santiago Galapagos mouse were rediscovered. They are now listed as threatened.

More than 1,600 insect species are found in the Galapagos.

Researchers are trying hard to save endangered species in the Galapagos Islands. In the case of Lonesome George, genetic research is being done to save him and the other 15,000 remaining tortoises. His home island has been almost cleared of feral goats in the hopes that there may be young tortoises of his kind still remaining unseen. Captive breeding programs with other tortoises have been quite successful, so there is still a glimmer of hope for Lonesome George.

Extensive resources have been supplied, by organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the Charles Darwin Foundation (as well as others), to support research aimed at the preservation of the unique, native wildlife of the Galapagos archipelago.

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