Galapagos Islands: Threats and Conservation Efforts (3)


Over thousands of years, wildlife—plants and animals—formed their own unique ecosystems without any influence of outside forces until the Galapagos Islands underwent many changes, especially since the arrival of humans to the Islands. With the increase of the population, the demand for food also increased, causing an increase in fishing, poaching, hunting, in addition to an increase in the use of wood. Moreover, more land was used for people to build homes. Even though the Galapagos Islands depend mainly on tourism, however, tourism should be managed carefully.

In the past, some animals came with the tourists during their visits to the Islands; immigrants also brought animals for agricultural purposes. That was a threat to the native species on the Island. Before the increase of human activity on the Islands, it was estimated that around 250,000 giant tortoises had lived on Galapagos Islands; now, there are only 15,000–20,000 tortoises alive. The tortoises are protected by the Ecuadorian law and the Ecuadorian Government created the Galapagos National Park to protect all the species habitats on the Islands.

Many actions have been taken to control and eliminate the risk of any invasive species entering the Islands. Currently, a species of parasitic fly named Philornis downsi is posing a big threat to the Galapagos wildlife. The adult form of the fly has no dangerous impact; however, the larvae of this fly feeds on the eggs and hatchlings of many species of Galapagos land birds. This has also led to a decrease in the population of many Darwin’s Finches. There are many initiatives and projects that aim at studying the biology of this fly, to effectively control and minimize its impact on the Galapagos birds.

Preserving and protecting the Galapagos Islands is an ongoing battle. Since Galapagos Islands are so biodiverse, any small effort in the conservation process makes a big difference.


The article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Spring 2022 “Ecosystems and Life: On Land”

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