Protecting Critically Endangered Petrels on the Galápagos Islands
As invasive species threaten the magnificent biodiversity of the Galápagos Archipelago, the Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco is fighting back with the help of Hurtigruten Foundation.
The Galápagos Archipelago is renowned for its fantastic and rich wildlife. Yet this wonderful biodiversity is threatened by vigorous invasive species that are disrupting the ecosystem. Sprawling blackberries and non-native predators have impacted the unique Galápagos Petrel so severely that this elegant seabird is now facing extinction.
The Galápagos Petrel is endemic to the islands of the Galápagos. Spending most of its time at sea, it returns to the safety of the archipelago only to nest, which it does in underground burrows. But there, the safety it has known for countless generations is rapidly disappearing.
Invasive species altering the balance
Since the arrival of foreign predators – rats and feral cats – the nests of the Galápagos Petrel are being looted to such an extent that 72% fail to produce any young. At the same time, non-native vegetation, such as blackberries, chokes the entryways to the petrels’ burrows, creating an impenetrable thicket that prevents the birds from accessing the cavities in the ground where they can hatch their eggs in peace.
Faced with these twin threats, the Galápagos Petrel has rapidly declined over the past 60 years. With just 6000 – 15000 birds remaining, this unique bird is now classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The work of Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco
To protect and manage the Galápagos Petrel’s critical nesting sites, Fundación Jocotoco established a 101-hectare reserve in the highlands of San Cristobal Island in 2018. Here, conservationists protect multiple nesting colonies. As well as monitoring the numbers of birds in 198 nest cavities, the dedicated people of Fundación Jocotoco work to eradicate the invasive species.
To reduce predators, the conservationists use rat poison that’s carefully placed away from water sources. They also humanely trap feral cats, which are then sent to the Agency for the Regulation and Control of Biosafety and Quarantine for Galápagos. Meanwhile, the conservationists undertake regular large-scale efforts to control the invasive blackberries and raspberries in each of the petrel colonies of the reserve, hacking them back to ensure the birds have access to the burrows they so desperately need.
Backing this vital conservation, Hurtigruten Foundation has provided NOK 84,168 (approx. $9,500) to help fund the salaries of the people doing the work, for transportation around the island, and for equipment to combat the non-native plants and animals.
Ongoing habitat restoration with native species
Alongside the eradication efforts, Fundación Jocotoco is also restoring the area with the endemic shrub Miconia. This native plant helps to provide the Galápagos Petrel with its preferred habitat at the same time as helping to hold the invasive plants at bay. In this way, the support from Hurtigruten Foundation is allowing the endemic fauna to rebound and avoid extinction while rebuilding the health of the whole San Cristobal Island ecosystem, so it can sustain seabirds and humans in perpetuity.
Where can I learn more?
You can see much more about the unique and fascinating Galápagos Islands on the Hurtigruten Expeditions website here. Hurtigruten Expeditions offers a range of expedition cruises to Galápagos with fantastic opportunities for exploration and adventure – and an onboard Expedition Team who are keen to share their expertise.
About Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco
Founded in 1998, the Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco is an Ecuadorian non-governmental organization that protects some of the world's most endangered species by conserving their remaining natural habitats in Ecuador. They have established a network of 16 biological reserves, which together add up to 30,000 hectares.