Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Ridding Galapagos of rats to preserve its famed tortoises
by Staff Writers
Isla Pinzon, Ecuador (AFP) Dec 13, 2012

Efforts are underway to save the famed giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands by wiping out the rodents that prey on their eggs and hatchlings, environmentalists here said.

Rats, which are not native to the Pacific island chain, have decimated the tortoise population and threaten to wipe it out altogether.

"They destroy the eggs and kill the young of the species, disrupting the natural balance of an ecosystem as fragile as the Galapagos'," Edwin Naula, director of the Galapagos Natural Park, told AFP.

This week, rat poison was dropped by helicopter all over the uninhabited islet of Isla Pinzon in an experiment designed to pave the way for mass rodent eradication.

Tortoises in the park emerge from the egg in hatcheries, are raised in captivity and introduced to the wild when they are four or five years old.

"We haven't had luck in producing them in the wild because of the presence of the rats, but we hope that that will change once the rodents are wiped out," said Christian Sevilla, who is in charge of conservation programs.

The Galapagos, some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off Ecuador's coast, is an archipelago of 13 islands and more than 100 rocks and micro-islands.

It became famous when Charles Darwin visited in 1835 to conduct landmark research that led to him to his revolutionary theories on evolution.

The islands were uninhabited when Europeans first visited in the 16th century, but today have a population of around 25,000.

Experts estimate there were once some 300,000 giant tortoises, but the population dwindled during the 18th and 19th century after they were hunted by whalers and pirates as fresh food.

The invaders also inadvertently introduced new predators, like the rats, which further reduced the tortoise population.

Today between about 30,000 and 40,000 tortoises remain on the Galapagos, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 because of its unique plant and animal life.

In 2007, however, UNESCO declared the island chain's environment endangered due to the increase in tourism and the introduction of invasive species.

Park overseers are making an effort to eliminate rodents throughout the island chain which has at least 1,500 species of flora and 500 types of fauna.

Experts estimate that there are now between eight and 12 rats per hectare in the infested areas.

In addition to harming the tortoises, the rodents also prey upon iguanas and lizards, and researchers fear the rat may harm, or even wipe out some of the countless other species not yet discovered.

As part of the effort to preserve the fragile Galapagos ecosystem, organizations such as the US group Conservation Island helped spread tonnes of rat poison pellets mixed with food and an anti-coagulant on Pinzon.

There are drawbacks to using this approach, however, including "keeping the bait from being consumed by native or species," Sevilla said.

In an effort to keep bird of prey safe from harm, about 60 hawks are being raised in cages on a slope of Pinzon island. But naturalists here said at least one owl had died after eaten one of the poisoned rodents.

"That's the price you pay for a plan that will allow for a restoration of the natural system," said Danny Rueda, another official involved in the day to day management of Galapagos.

Some birds and animals are being safeguarded during the effort to eradicate the rats and will be released in about five days -- time enough for the poison to biodegrade.

If the extermination scheme works on Pinzon, it will be extended to other islands in the Galapagos chain, including inhabited ones, park officials said.


Related Links
Darwin Today At

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

China development threatens wildlife: WWF
Beijing (AFP) Dec 12, 2012
From tigers to dolphins, animal populations in many of China's ecosystems have plummeted during decades of development and urbanisation, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study said Wednesday. The conservation group highlighted about a dozen species in different natural habitats across the country in its third China Ecological Footprint Report, saying numbers have fallen dramatically over the year ... read more

Great balls of China to defend against 'apocalypse'

Apocalypse... but not as we know it

Thirteen killed in S.Africa bridge collapse

Fire, flood or giant calabash... pick your apocalypse

Jury rules Apple iPhone violated MobileMedia patents

XTAR Wins $8 Million In New Business

Boeing, BMW Group to collaborate on carbon fiber recycling

Yahoo! seeks slice of smartphone photo-sharing pie

Fish have enormous nutrient impacts on marine ecosystems

Scary news for corals - from the Ice Age

Advance in chromosomal evolution in sea cradles

Mercury in coastal fog linked to upwelling of deep ocean water

Greenland ice sheet carries evidence of increased atmospheric acidity

Warm sea water is melting Antarctic glaciers

Massive crevasses and bendable ice affect stability of Antarctic ice shelf, CU research team finds

Clearest evidence yet of polar ice losses

China, S.Africa suspend Brazil beef imports: source

Antibiotic-eating bug unearthed in soil

Quantifying corn rootworm damage

Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production

Philippines typhoon death toll tops 900

Philippines typhoon toll tops 700, hundreds missing

Scientists pinpoint great-earthquake hot spots

At least 13 dead after flood in Congo capital

UN, US lead condemnation of Mali PM's ouster

New Mali PM has 'respect' of US

New Mali PM crafts unity government to win back north

Mali crisis deepens as PM quits under pressure from ex-junta

What howler monkeys can tell us about the role of interbreeding in human evolution

Africa's Homo sapiens were the first techies

Skeletons in cave reveal Mediterranean secrets

World's tallest woman dies in China: authorities

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement