Galapagos Invasive Species:
Harmful animals

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Project Isabela: The most ambitious restoration project to date.

Isabela Island (458,812 ha) constitutes more than half of the land area of the archipelago and contains more endemic species than any other island in Galapagos. Although the majority of these endemic species are also present in other parts of the archipelago, Isabela has a higher concentration of endemic species (40% of endemic vertebrates and 66% of endemic plants). Many of these populations are currently seriously endangered.

Giant tortoise and goats Goats are not a native species in the Galapagos Islands. They were abandoned in former centuries by whaler floats to ensure a fresh meat supply in the islands, and later introduced by local colonizers as livestock. Northern Isabela remained free of goats since its origins until mid 1970. It is unknown how goats arrived in this area, they may have crossed the Perry isthmus from South Isabela during an especially rainy year, or may have escaped from fishing boats which used to keep live goats on board as a way to provide fresh meat during long fishing journeys. In 1997 it was estimated (by air and ground studies) that there were between 100,000 and 150,000 individuals in north Isabela, in an area of around 250,000 km2.

The large herds of goats are very damaging. They:

The organisation of a large-scale eradication campaign demands plenty of support, considerably financial resources and high skills. Only in the last two years have the Galapagos National Park (GNP) and the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) been able to coordinate the necessary elements required to initiate this effort.

The Project

The Isabela Project is an initiative of the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands, which provides scientific, technical and managing support to the project. To facilitate cooperation these institutions have signed a formal agreement for joint administration of the project.

About 70% of the Isabela Project has been funded by the project "Invasive Species in the Galapagos". The rest of the funding is responsibility of the Ecuadorian government and the fund raising activities of the Charles Darwin Foundation.

Ninety-five percent of the Isabela Project staff are from Galapagos, contracted by GPN and the CDF. Staff have been trained specifically for this work and, at the moment, the group has become a highly sophisticated hunting team. They have been trained in several skills, such as Global Positioning System operation and application, hunting techniques, rifle safety and handling, training and use of dogs and first aid procedures.

Project Isabela has four phases:

These specific techniques have been used during recent decades in more than 80 island-based goat eradication projects and other goat control projects in Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States. Techniques have been refined to be more humane and effective, ensuring that the hunting process is completed in a fast and efficient way.

Current activities

In 2004, under the the project "Invasive Species in the Galapagos" aerial hunting of goats in northern Isabela began. This work was carried out systematically, dividing the area into sectors, depending on the density of vegetation and goats.

This year, with a total of 796 flying hours devoted to aerial hunting, we can say that the situation in the north of the island is as follows:

The aim for the end of 2005 is to declare northern Isabela free of goats and donkeys.

Source: Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

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This website was created on 25 October 2004 by PT and JK