To Restore the Giant Tortoise, a Galapagos Island Takes Aim at Invasive Rodents

A feral cat in the Galapagos Islands.

A feral cat in the Galapagos Islands. Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

After more than a decade of intensive planning and research, an extensive campaign to eradicate invasive species on a Galapagos island got underway this week.

One of the first islands to be colonized by settlers, in 1832, Floreana now has the highest concentration of threatened species in the Galapagos archipelago: 55 of the island’s native species are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and 12 species are locally extinct.

To counter the island’s invasive mammals — rodents and feral cats — two helicopters will drop poisonous baits along predetermined transects. The initial bait application will take 10 days and cover the entire 42,000-acre island, with two additional applications planned before the end of the year.

Provided the eradication is successful, the Floreana Ecological Restoration Project, a consortium of several Ecuadorean conservation groups, plans to reintroduce to the island, in January 2024, the first of 12 locally extinct species: the giant tortoise.

As the ecosystem regenerates over the next seven years, the project will gradually release Floreana racer snakes, Floreana mockingbirds, vermilion flycatchers, gray warbler finches, large ground finches, vegetarian finches, sharp-beaked ground finches, barn owls, Galapagos rail, lava gulls, and Galapagos hawks — all of which are found on other Galapagos islands.


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