Quito, Dec 2 (efe-epa).- Park rangers have determined that 2,139 land iguanas reintroduced in 2019 onto Santiago Island in Ecuador’s Galapagos archipelago have adapted successfully in areas suitable for their survival.
The Galapagos National Park Directorate made the announcement Wednesday, saying in a statement that a monitoring program showed that the Galapagos land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) is fulfilling its important ecological role and contributing to the park’s ecological restoration effort.
The iguanas returned to Santiago Island for the first time since 1835 under a program carried out last year by the park’s directorate in collaboration with New Zealand’s Massey University and the Island Conservation non-profit organization.
Technical personnel carried out the monitoring work at the Puerto Nuevo and Bucanero coastal sites, where they confirmed the presence of reinserted iguanas, burrows, droppings, possible nesting areas, young iguanas and food availability.
The park rangers also observed that the iguanas had made their way to Santiago Island’s Puerto Egas visitor site, where they are both contributing to the ecological restoration effort and serving as a tourist draw.
Separately, on the Galapagos’ North Seymour Island (the place of origin of the iguanas taken to Santiago), rangers carried out a census using a transect method to determine the number of Galapagos land iguanas there and gather other data, including their sex and age.
On the basis of that study, the mean population of that species on North Seymour is currently estimated to be 4,571.
The environmental management measures implemented on those two islands, particularly those pertaining to the control and eradication of invasive species such as rodents on North Seymour Island (in 2019) and pigs, donkeys and goats on Santiago Island (in 2002 and 2006), have promoted healthy Galapagos land iguana populations in both places.
Located roughly 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of continental Ecuador, the Galapagos archipelago comprises a marine and land reserve covering 132,000 square kilometers (50,965 square miles).
The islands, which were declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1978, were made famous by 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose observations of life on the islands contributed greatly to his theory of evolution and natural selection.
Prior to 2019, iguanas had not been seen on Santiago Island since Darwin’s visit in the first half of the 19th century. EFE-EPA