Quito, Oct 23 (efe-epa).- The populations of penguins and flightless cormorants of the Galapagos Islands have reached a record high, according to a census released Friday by the authorities of the Ecuadorian archipelago designated a World Heritage Site.
The announcement was made by the Galapagos National Park, an entity of the Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador in charge of protecting the rich biodiversity of this insular region of the southeast Pacific.
The census, carried out by GNP and the Charles Darwin Foundation, based in Galapagos, recorded a notable population increase of both species.
“There are 2,290 flightless cormorants and 1,940 penguins in the main colonies located on the Isabela and Fernandina islands and Marielas islets, in the west of the Galapagos archipelago,” the GNP reported in a statement.
It specified that the Galapagos penguin is the only variety that lives and nests on the equatorial line and “is one of the smallest penguin species in the world, reaching up to 35 centimeters in height.”
The statement added that the Galapagos cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi) “lives in a very restricted area and is the only one in the world that lost its ability to fly and developed diving skills.”
Both are considered “threatened” and are included “within the list of endangered species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature,” added the source.
Environment Minister Paulo Proaño said that the increase in the data from this latest census shows “the good health of the population” protected in the archipelago.
The director of the Galapagos National Park, Danny Rueda, explained the positive impact of these figures for the institution.
“The actions of park rangers, technicians and scientists, such as control of introduced species and monitoring, have made it possible to keep penguins and cormorants in healthy populations,” he added.
Regarding the species that were taken into account for the census assessment, “86 percent of them were adults, both the flightless cormorants and the Galapagos penguins, this value being positive means there is a population of reproductive adults,” said researcher of seabirds of the Charles Darwin Foundation, Gustavo Jiménez.
According to the technicians of the directorate of the GNP, the presence of La Niña, a natural weather event that cools down the waters of the tropical Pacific, “produces a greater outcrop of food.”
If this factor is added to the “absence of disturbances in the nesting areas of these species due to the paralysis of tourist activities during the emergency” due to the coronavirus pandemic, the population number of the species increases, the researcher added.
This Ecuadorian archipelago is made up of 13 large islands, six smaller ones and 42 islets, and due to its rich biodiversity it is considered a natural laboratory that allowed English scientist Charles Darwin to develop his theory on evolution and the natural selection of species.
The Galapagos Islands, which were declared in 1978 a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site for Humanity and owe their name to the large turtles that inhabit them, encompass a land and marine reserve of about 138,000 square kilometers. EFE-EPA