Conservation and Environment in Ecuador: Monthly Updates
Conservation in Ecuador Monthly Update - July-August 2013
Our work in the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre (Geochelone elephantopus) is doing well and we are working hard to eradicate an alien plant species known locally as “Supirrosa”. At the moment, we are concentrating our efforts in an area known as Cerro Colorado where the native species Leocarpus darwinii, endemic to San Cristobal, is under threat from such alien plants. The aim is to eliminate the invasive species and reforest with Leocarpus darwinii and other endemic species such as “matazarno”, “opuntia”, “chala” and “manzanillo”.
Our labours also include the management, feeding and care of the beautiful giant tortoises and we performed a census where we were fortunate enough to weigh 40 individuals. The park ranger on duty explained how we should manage the gentle giants and gave us a fascinating insight into the life history and biology of this reptile. The census is performed twice a year to successfully monitor the populations of the tortoises in the centre.
In the plant nursery of the Galapagos National Park (PNG) we worked with native and endemic plant species that are destined for reforestation in the fore mentioned Cerro Colorado area of the island. We filled plastic plant bags with compost before sowing seeds in each one. We also helped clear a new trail around the plant nursery. Once we have become more established as an on-going aid for the plant nursery we hope to plant our own seedlings for replanting around the town of San Cristobal.
This month we got involved in helping a community of farmers and created a giant compost site by mixing organic materials available in the area. These included aromatic herbs, cow dung, rotting fruits, milk, yeast and calcium. This lovely concoction should be ready in around 45 days and will be welcomed in the coffee plantations the farmers manage.
At one of the local schools, Alejandro Albear, we created a conservation orientated mural. The message was aimed at the young generation of the island. Later we helped in a clean-up around the national park and in the future we hope to paint a similar message to encourage interaction between the local community and the government-run park.
To help integrate both volunteers and locals we hosted a football match, which was enjoyed by everyone as people crossed language barriers and learnt about each other’s cultures. This bonding is very important as San Cristobal has a small population and a great community feel so we must actively look to get involved in all aspects of their lives to help push our goals of conservation.
Our monitoring studies on birds, iguanas and sea lions are progressing well. We are working with the national park (PNG) to eradicate rats with poisoned bait on the island’s higher areas. This is necessary as the rats poach the nests of the Galapagos Petrel, (Petrel pheaopygia) which lay their eggs in burrows up to 2m deep. This bird species is threatened according to the latest UICN list.
This month we have reached many of our goals. The feeding of the giant tortoises has been successful with no after effects or symptoms of disease. All the tortoise pools were cleaned every week and the population on San Cristobal appears to be in excellent condition. The trials around the centre are open and free of invasive species. Thus the area is ready for the females to start laying their eggs over the coming months.
The germination rate of the plants in the PNG nursery has been excellent and the seedlings are healthy and ready for transplanting. The community is aware of our conservation work and are helping in the cleaning activities we perform in conjunction with the national park. Slowly we are increasing environmental awareness in the local population of San Cristobal and clean parks now exist for children to play and see our conservation murals.
Thanks to our hard work, huge amounts of rubbish have been removed from the island’s beaches. This garbage included bottles, tyres, glasses and huge amounts of plastic in varying forms. This rubbish is not just unpleasant to look at but also affects gravely the balance of the ecosystem and the animals that live on and around the archipelago.
We are advancing well with our own nursery and are starting to produce endemic and native species from the island. We have also opened nature trails to help educate people on the unique and fascinating flora that resides on San Cristobal.
I look forward to reporting on our progress next time…
Conservation Manager, Ecuador