Disasters & Accidents

Galapagos’ endangered pink iguanas far from volcano’s eruption zone

Quito, Jan 7 (EFE).- The pink land iguanas of Ecuador’s Galapagos archipelago, a species only endemic to the northwestern slopes of Isabela Island’s Wolf Volcano, are far from the zone of its latest eruption and not currently under threat.

The Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) made that assessment in a statement, saying that no additional measures are needed to protect that critically endangered lizard (Conolophus marthae).

The GNPD’s director, Danny Rueda, said that a survey flight of the area on Friday determined that lava from the eruption was flowing toward an area south of the Wolf Volcano’s crater.

“This means that our emblematic populations such as turtles, (the Galapagos) land iguana and especially the pink iguana are away from the flow of lava that could in some way affect their populations,” he said.

Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute said magma was exiting its underground chamber through a vent and for now is flowing southward toward Isabela Island’s interior.

The columns of smoke and ash rise to a height of between 1,900-3,800 meters (6,230-12,460 feet) high and are moving toward the north of the island, where there is no human settlement.

“The Galapagos Islands are in constant formation. Its volcanic eruptions are one of the biggest attractions it has because they allow us to experience nature’s power first-hand,” said Environment, Water and Ecological Transition Minister Gustavo Manrique, who is on a working visit to the archipelago.

The Wolf Volcano is the Galapagos’ tallest at 1,707 meters above sea level and one of Isabela Island’s five active volcanoes along with Sierra Negra, Cerro Azul, Alcedo and Darwin.

It is not located near an inhabited area.

The latest census conducted last August put the population of the Galapagos pink land iguana at 211. Fifty-three of them were located and captured as part of a conservation plan, 94 percent of which were living at a height of more than 1,500 meters above sea level.

The initial actions of that plan include information-gathering, the construction of a permanent shed for scientists on the volcano and efforts to control introduced predator species.

Experts say it is crucial to determine when and where the pink land iguanas nest.

The conservation director at the Galapagos Conservancy, Washington Tapia, said in August that being restricted to a single location increases the vulnerability of that species, which is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered.

The archipelago – which consists of 13 major islands, six smaller islands and scores of islets and rocks – was made famous by 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose observations of life on the islands inspired him to develop his theory about evolution, natural selection and the origin of species. EFE


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