Galápagos petrel

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 the Hurtigruten Foundation.

The Galápagos Archipelago is renowned for its rich wildlife. Yet vigorous invasive species are threatening this wonderful biodiversity and 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 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

Foreign predators (rats and feral cats) loot the nests of the Galápagos petrel to such an extent that 72% fail to produce any young. At the same time, non-native vegetation like 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.

These twin threats have caused the population of Galápagos petrels to rapidly decline over the past 60 years. With only between 6,000 and 15,000 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 250-acre reserve in the highlands of San Cristobal Island in 2018. Here, conservationists protect multiple nesting colonies. The dedicated folks at Fundación Jocotoco monitor bird numbers in 198 nest cavities and work to eradicate the invasive species.

To reduce predators, the conservationists use rat poison that is 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 regularly undertake 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.

Hurtigruten Foundation has provided NOK 84,168 (approx. USD 9,500) to back this vital conservation. This money helps fund the salaries of the people doing the work, contributes to transportation around the island, and helps with 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 Miconia shrub. This native plant helps provide the Galápagos petrel with its preferred habitat while also helping to hold the invasive plants at bay. Support from the Hurtigruten Foundation thus helps endemic fauna rebound and avoid extinction while rebuilding the health of the whole San Cristobal Island ecosystem to sustain seabirds (and humans) in perpetuity.

How can I learn more?

See much more about the unique and fascinating Galápagos Islands here on the Hurtigruten Expeditions website. Hurtigruten Expeditions offers a range of expedition cruises to the Galápagos with fantastic opportunities for exploration and adventure—not to mention the onboard Expedition Team who are always willing to share their expertise.

About Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco

Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco is an Ecuadorian non-governmental organization founded in 1998. It 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 over 74,000 acres.