Protecting the Punta Pitt Marine Iguanas of San Cristobal Island

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Protecting the Marine Iguanas of Punta PIt

Rachel Dex in GalapagosThis is the second of a series of five blog posts highlighting the crucial work of UK based charity the Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT), this time in helping to protect a tiny population of Marine Iguanas on San Cristobal Island.

Santiago and I have close links with the GCT and all guests that travel with Think Galapagos are offered a one-year complementary membership of the GCT to help them continue their fantastic conservation work in the Galapagos Islands.

The ‘Punta Pitt’ Marine Iguana

Unique amongst reptiles worldwide in its adaptations to life along the shoreline, the Galapagos Marine Iguana is found only the Galapagos Archipelago. The GCT is currently working on a project on the island of San Cristobal, the eastern most island in the Galapagos to help protect a critically endangered population of marine iguanas.

The ‘Punta Pitt’ Marine Iguana

Whilst marine iguanas are widespread and highly abundant on certain islands (such as Isabella and Fernandina in the west of the archipelago), on certain islands such as San Cristobal small, declining and genetically distinct populations are causing concern for conservationists. One population in particular on the very tip of San Cristobal has attracted attention not just because of its critically small size, but also for being highly distinctive in genetic terms. This ‘Punta Pitt’ population, named after its location, is so genetically diverse that it is being investigated whether it deserves recognition as a new or sub-species. If identified as a distinct species or sub-species, it will require a customised conservation plan.

One of the most significant threats this population faces is the feral cat, a species introduced by humans to the Galapagos Islands that preys on the slow-moving marine iguana.  As such, the program has been attaching GPS collars to feral cats that they have captured to obtain data on how the cats move around the island and their daily cycle of activity. The aim of this work is to help design suggestions for an effective feral cat control programme both in Punta Pitt and other areas of Galapagos where the cat threatens endemic species.

The Galapagos Future Fund

The project discussed in this blog is just one of many initiatives undertaken to avoid the extinction of iconic species, loss of habitat and unsustainable development in the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Future Fund, launched by the GCT earlier this year provides a platform for supporting the scientific, cultural and educational projects that are essential to securing the future of the Archipelago’s unique wildlife.

The GCT needs your support to enable a combined and structured effort across a wide range of work. This will include pioneering projects to understand whale sharks, a species about which we still know barely anything about, through to ensuring the survival of mangrove finches by protecting them literally one egg at a time. You can read more about the Galapagos Future Fund and its projects on their website:


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