One of our favourite conservation projects at the moment is the ground breaking Restoring Floreana program which aims to return Floreana, the sixth largest island in Galapagos, to its former glory. Involving one of the most complex and largest eradication projects ever conducted on an inhabited tropical island, the ultimate goal is to reintroduce locally extinct species to the island by 2025.
Floreana – Home to Iconic Species of the Galapagos
Formerly home to some of the Galapagos Islands most iconic species, including the Floreana mockingbird, racer snake and giant tortoise, Floreana has a longer human history than most in Galapagos. This explains why by the time Charles Darwin arrived to Floreana in 1835, the island had already suffered depredations of colonists, pirates and whalers.
With human settlers on any isolated island come invasive species such as rats and cats, which have had devastating effects on local wildlife. 55 species on Floreana are currently listed on the IUCN Red List, and 12 species are now locally extinct, including the Floreana mockingbird and the Galapagos racer. These last two species local extinction is thought to be directly the result of introduced rats and cats.
Removing Invasive Species
To date, no project on earth has ever successfully removed invasive rats and cats from such a large inhabited island, but what makes this project different is the 140 local inhabitants of Floreana Island. The local community are fully committed to preserving and restoring their local wildlife and have become key players in the project which involves collaboration between various conservation organisations including the Galapagos Conservation Trust, Island Conservation and Galapagos National Park.
If successful, the project will become a model for other such projects across the world. The first stage, currently underway, is the mitigation stage. This means ensuring all vulnerable species as well as humans and livestock are adequately protected during the baiting phase of the project. The eradication phase, which will follow, will involve targeted baiting to eradicate non-native rats and feral cats is expected to start in 2020.
Reintroduction of native species
The final, and most exciting phase of the project will come with the reintroduction of locally extent species including the racer and Floreana mockingbird. Thankfully both species have survived on neighbouring islets, where such invasive species are not present. Other locally extinct species are found elsewhere in the archipelago with the exception of the Floreana giant tortoise which is now extinct.
If you like us, feel inspired by this project and would like to help support it, a great way is to donate to the Galapagos Conservation Trust. They are key partners in the project and are the only UK registered charity to focus exclusively on the conservation and sustainability of the Galapagos Archipelago.
Want to know more?
Read our guide to Floreana Island.
Read our month by month guide to the Galapagos Islands.