Scientists seek to reintroduce species ‘extinct’ on Galápagos island

Quito, Jul 19 (EFE).- Scientists on the Ecuadorian archipelago of Galápagos are looking to reintroduce several species considered locally extinct on Floreana, one of its islands, in order to restore ecological networks and prevent the disappearance of other endemic animals.

The management of the Galápagos National Park (GNP) said Tuesday that it plans to introduce some varieties of finches, warlocks, the crake (an endemic bird), the lava gull, the barn owl, the Galápagos sparrowhawk as well as the mockingbird, snake and the giant tortoise of Floreana.

The project, which started two years ago, will materialize in 2024, when the re-introduction of the specimens, chosen from source populations already identified in other parts of the archipelago, is expected to be carried out, a GNP official told EFE.

The first stage of the project has been to eliminate from Floreana several species that have harmed ecosystems, especially rodents and feral cats.

Wildlife specialists from the GNP and the environmental organizations, Island Conservation and Re:Wild recently concluded a workshop to outline actions and timelines for the gradual reintroduction of the 13 species considered locally extinct on the island.

The eradication phase of rodents and feral cats is expected to conclude next year thereby paving the way for the reintroduction of the new specimens in order to strengthen the dynamics of the island’s ecosystems and contribute to its restoration, said the GNP, which falls under Ecuador’s environment ministry.

The workshop has analyzed studies on the “source populations” from which specimens will be taken to Floreana, as well as the risks, biological viability, social feasibility and the link of the new specimens to existing ones.

“Floreana is one of the first inhabited islands in the world in which species that were lost in the last two centuries will be reintroduced, which will expand populations in danger of extinction and restore ecological networks that have disappeared,” Luis Ortíz-Catedral, scientific advisor of the GNP and wildlife expert, said.

He added that “this activity has been planned according to ecological relationships between species, so that the gains for ecosystem restoration will possibly be greater than if isolated individual reintroductions were done.”

GNP Director Danny Rueda highlighted the role of the Floreana community in the formulation of the project.

“We would not have been able to arrive at this stage of the project, which began 12 years ago, without the joint work of the local community that has been involved during the different phases of the project,” Rueda said.

The Galápagos 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.

Located in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of mainland Ecuador, the islands are home to more than 7,000 endemic and native species, many of them found nowhere else on the planet.

The islands were declared a Natural Heritage Site for Humanity by UNESCO in 1978. EFE


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