Conservation in Ecuador Monthly Update October – November 2013
We have been working in the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre (Chelonoidis chathamensis) in conjunction with the Galapagos National Park and this month we have been concentrating on the animals’ diet and the cleaning of the artificial pools where they feed and drink fresh water. In parallel, we have been working to remove invasive species such as the “supirrosa” (Lantana camara) which competes for both space and nutrients with the islands native flora. In addition to the pool sites we have been performing the same plant removal around the tortoise nesting sites to make egg collection easier. These young tortoises will be raised in captivity before release back into wild habitats on the island of San Cristobal. The first site for release is called Punta Pitt.
Elsewhere at the centre we built a corral for a giant tortoise that was rescued from a pig pen on a nearby farm. This female must be kept in quarantine until we can be certain that she has no diseases, bacterial or viral, contracted from domestic animals that could jeopardise the entire population of the breeding centre.
In the Galapaguera plant nursery we have been working hard in filling plant bags with our freshly produced compost where we will transplant seedlings at a later date. We have been monitoring the plant beds and selecting the strongest seedlings for reforestation. We are currently replanting enemic species around the borders of the plant nursery and these include Lecocarpus Darwinii, “rodilla de caballo” (Clerodendrum molle) and Calandrinia Galapagosa. On the nearby Cerro Colorado we continue our work controlling the “supirrosa” which is out-competing the Lecocarpus plants are being reforested in several locations in an attempt to increase its density in areas it once flourished.
Our reforestation work has been recognised by many organisations on the island but we have to keep pushing ourselves and whilst it would appear logical that reforesting native and endemic plant species will only benefit the ecosystem we must have some evidence that this is the case. To this end we have start a bird census on Cerro Colorado. The idea is to observe the bird populations and their dynamics to see whether the changing plant compositions is attracting back those species historically dependent on the endemic flora. These bird observations occur early in the morning (5am) and after this we take breakfast before continuing with our reforestation work.
In our own nursery we are germinating the button mangrove (Conocarpus erectus) and cotton tree (Gossypium darwinii) both of which are scheduled for future reforestation work, environmental education for children and members of the local community. This is important to encourage island residents to plant endemic gardens and only use plants native to the Galapagos.
We continue to monitor marine species by patrolling the beaches of the island. We hope to gain a better understanding of the population numbers, dynamics and local migrations of two important species endemic to the Galapagos. The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) and the Galapagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki).
I look forward to bringing you more news from our patch of Paradise next time...
Conservation Manager, Ecuador