Galapagos Islands: Iguanas are being reintroduced after almost 200 years of their extinction

Galapagos Islands: Iguanas are being reintroduced after almost 200 years of their extinction

The Galapagos iguana (land species) is making a return to Santiago Island. Conservationists report that the species shows signs of being reintroduced successfully.

A Galapagos Islands species of iguana disappeared nearly 200 years ago. Now, they're making a comeback thanks to conservationists.

Charles Darwin was 1835 the last person to spot an Ecuadorian Galapagos land iguana on Santiago Island. The iguanas could not be found when an expedition team arrived from California in 1906.

While this species of iguana has been found on Galapagos Islands for some time, it is believed that it was extinct in Santiago over the past 187-years.

The discovery of new lizards by scientists and park rangers while exploring the island in the late summer suggests that the species have been successfully reintroduced. Jorge Carrion from the Galapagos conservation office says that the ecosystem has been thriving.

He explained that all evidence is in the details. You can see that iguanas are reproducing in their natural environment when you find lizards from different ages.

Carrion began his career at the Galapagos National Park Directorate. The directorate is responsible for maintaining the islands' ecosystems, and other resources. The GNPD, which receives funding from the Conservancy and provides assistance with its iguana reintroduction efforts, is also the authority.

He indicated that the cooperative has released more then 3,000 land iguanas since January 2019.

After carefully considering how a return by the species would impact the ecosystem and conservationists made the decision to reintroduce them. These lizards have been called an engineering species. They are similar to the Galapagos giant Tortoise and play a vital role in maintaining balance in ecosystems.

Carrion explained that the Galapagos Islands land iguanas and giant tortoises are the primary herbivores. They spread seeds across the landscape, helping to create the plant communities. Their movement patterns create open spaces that are accessible to other animals.

Carrion stated that this species was essential to ecosystems in general. "In the case of this species, it was the justification for reintroductions of land Iguanas, in order [return] to the natural dynamic at Santiago Island. There are many ecological imbalances that occur when engineer species do not exist.

Officials monitor the Iguanas. They have searched for new lizards and found a variety of ages. This suggests that the species is reproducing itself.

What caused the extinctions in iguanas

It is believed that the Galapagos iguanas on Galapagos islands were destroyed by invasive species. This includes feral dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, feral and domestic cats. These unwanted creatures were introduced to Santiago and some other islands by whalers. They decimated plants and other species, and they even ate the iguanas.

It was necessary to eliminate all non-native wildlife from the island in order for the iguanas to be reintroduced. This was accomplished through Project Isabela by the Galapagos Conservancy. The project was completed in 2006.

Carrion explained that he believes he and others have learned a valuable lesson through the reintroduction the land-iguanas. If the source of the ecological disturbance is removed, the ecosystem will recover and be able to return to its natural dynamic.

The National Park Directorate along with the Galapagos Conservancy will also work together to reintroduce this giant tortoise onto another island. According to Galapagos Conservancy data, the Floreana Islands native tortoise disappeared in the 1800s. Reintroductions and breeding efforts began in 2017.

Galapagos Islands has some of the best ecosystems in the world. According to Conservancy, Darwin's 1835 expedition was the main reason that these islands became famous. It also led to Darwin’s theory of evolution via natural selection.

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