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Sea lion

secrets SNAIL TRAILS galapagosconservation.org.uk




Cover A Floreana mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus) on Gardner-by-Floreana. This critically endangered species is no longer found on Floreana, owing to the presence of rats and cats and the disappearance of cacti from the lowlands. It survives in two small populations on the offshore islets of Champion and Gardner-by-Floreana. © Luis Catedral-Ortiz.





 The snake and the mockingbird Luis Ortiz-Catedral shares his work on the emblematic Floreana racer and Floreana mockingbird on the islets of Champion and Gardener-by-Floreana. Karl Campbell reflects on wider ambitions to repair Floreana’s broken ecology.

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Sea lion

secrets SNAIL TRAILS galapagosconservation.org.uk

 On the trail of the snail Christine Parent celebrates the Naesiotus snails of Galapagos, one of the most impressive radiations in the Archipelago.

 Global Relevance The value of recreational or sport fishing is often underestimated, a sector that can be a source of significant income for local and national economies. Yet its impact on game fish is largely unknown and the practice may be in direct conflict with conservation goals, says Jack Grove.

 Galapagos in the UK All the latest news from the Galapagos Conservation Trust, including an update on the recent El Niño appeal and a project to survey the critically endangered waved albatross.




 Adapted to change How is it that the Galapagos sea lion has managed to survive in such warm and unpredictable waters? Stella Villegas-Amtmann goes in search of some answers.



Reviews and Merchandise


Luis Ortiz-Catedral is a conservation biologist at Massey University in New Zealand. Since 2010, he has worked with the Galapagos National Park monitoring and researching the biology of Floreana mockingbirds and Galapagos racers.



Karl Campbell is the Galapagos Program Director for Island Conservation, the world’s only NGO with the sole mission of preventing extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. He has lived and worked in Galapagos for 18 years, helping to pioneer techniques for the removal of invasive mammals.

Stella Villegas-Amtmann is an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has been working in Galapagos since 2005 and has studied many aspects of the Galapagos pinnipeds. These include the diving physiology, foraging ecology, reproductive physiology and field metabolic rate of Galapagos sea lions.

Jack Grove is a marine biologist and cofounder of Zegrahm Expeditions (www.zegrahm.com). He has carried out extensive marine research in Galapagos over the past four decades and he is coauthor of The Fishes of the Galapagos Islands, published by Stanford University Press, the definitive text on the Archipelago’s ichthyofauna.

Christine Parent is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Idaho. She began working in Galapagos in 1999 and soon turned her attention to Galapagos endemic snails. She is particularly interested in aspects of evolution, ecology, and conservation of species living on islands.

© Monty Halls


PRESIDENT by Monty Halls


t has been fifteen years since I last visited Galapagos, and yet earlier this year I had the rather strange (and wonderful) opportunity to travel to the Islands twice in the space of six weeks. For both these trips I was guiding groups, one of which comprised supporters from GCT, a formidable bunch who knew more about the Islands than I did. Happily, they were also thoroughly charming, and we had a splendid two weeks exploring the wonders of the Archipelago together. Fifteen years is a big old gap, and if nothing else provides a wonderful sense of perspective. I was seeing the same towns, the same islands, the same bays and indeed the same species, but with a decade and a half between the observations. I’m pleased to say that the same sense of wonder persisted between visits, and even when I found myself back at Heathrow preparing to return for the second time this year, I was beside myself with anticipation. It’s a tired old cliché, I know, but Galapagos is truly, truly unique. I was wide-eyed with wonder from the moment of stepping off the bus in Puerto Ayora (nearly tripping over a grumpy sea lion in the process), right through to climbing wearily back onto the flight at the end. It is one of those few places that lives up to – in fact exceeds – its billing: a magical, mysterious, wild archipelago, as bewitching today as it has ever been.

It faces, of course, different challenges today, changed substantially even from my first visit in 2001. Tourist numbers have increased dramatically, and the associated pressures of increased infrastructure have been well documented as an issue that must be addressed. There are arguments that adopt a somewhat gloomy outlook, but I would like to pass on my personal observations – albeit based on two relatively short visits – that present a more upbeat view. I found during the course of these trips that Galapagos is (refreshingly) heavily regulated, with tight controls on access to key areas, and passionate local guides with encyclopaedic knowledge of their home. It is naive to suggest that continued regulation and monitoring are not essential – they most certainly are – but my impression was of an island group with a highly proactive conservation culture, one that has embraced the significance

of protecting the delicate ecosystem around them. I left Galapagos profoundly impressed by the passion of the local people we worked with, and a feeling of optimism that the future is in good hands. Finally, I would urge you to visit and make up your own minds. You could classify the trip as “research” so your conscience is clear and your bank manager reassured. I understand that I’m preaching to the choir as I say these words, but if you haven’t been, then go. Go, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Go, and be reassured that the Galapagos does not have to be destined for catastrophe. Go, and see that the money you generously donate to GCT makes a genuine difference. Monty Halls President

Galapagos Matters is a copyright biannual publication produced for members of the Galapagos Conservation Trust. The information in this issue was ISSN 2050-6074 Galapagos Matters Designer: The Graphic Design House obtained from various sources, all is printed on paper made from well Printer: Bishops Printers of which have extensive knowledge managed forests and controlled Charles Darwin Suite, of Galapagos, but neither GCT nor sources. 28 Portland Place, London W1B 1LY the contributors are responsible Editor: Henry Nicholls 020 7399 7440 for the accuracy of the contents Chief Executive: Sharon Johnson gct@gct.org or the opinions expressed herein. Office Manager: Lisa Wheeler www.galapagosconservation.org.uk





WILD GALAPAGOS The islands are a photographer’s dream, with blue water, black lava, and of course the extraordinary wildlife. This image was taken at the end of the day, when I was just packing up my kit in Puerto Egas, Santiago. The low light on the arch, and the dark face of the rock slab in front of me were perfectly offset by the red of the Sally lightfoot crabs. A lovely end to the day.

Monty Halls






© Jonathan Green


he waters around the islands of Darwin and Wolf in the north of the Galapagos Archipelago boast “the largest fish biomass ever reported,” say scientists. In 2013 and 2014, researchers at the Charles Darwin Foundation and visiting scientists from the USA used a diveroperated stereo-video system to collect data on fish abundance around Darwin and Wolf. They estimate an average of 17.5 tons of fish per hectare, of which around two-thirds is made up of sharks. This is far in excess of similar calculations made elsewhere, they write in the openaccess journal PeerJ.



In March, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa announced the creation of over 20 marine sanctuaries within the Galapagos Marine Reserve, including the Darwin and Wolf Marine Sanctuary, a huge area of 15,000 miles surrounding these islands. Although no commercial-scale fishing activity has been permitted in these waters for almost 20 years, smaller artisanal fishing operations have been allowed. The new sanctuary system is the result of an open, transparent dialogue involving hundreds of stakeholders from many different sectors of Galapagos life and means that all fishing activity is banned in 32% of the Galapagos

Marine Reserve. The new sanctuary system should bring benefits to the 34 different shark species found in Galapagos waters and also to the tourism sector. A live shark is worth an estimated $360,000 to the tourism industry every year. The Galapagos National Park, meanwhile, is continuing its efforts to tag and monitor juvenile sharks within the Galapagos Marine Reserve to improve our understanding of the movements and breeding habits of these apex predators. GCT also continues its support of the Galapagos Whale Shark Monitoring Project.

© Simon Pierce



he diet of Galapagos hawks has changed following the eradication of goats. Analysis of the food items that adult hawks brought to nests on Santiago before and after the removal of goats in 2006 suggests that the thicker vegetation has made it more difficult to hunt for reptiles, invertebrates and land birds. Since goat eradication, the hawk’s diet has been comprised mainly of introduced rats, report scientists in the Journal of Raptor Research.






n May, researchers from the Mangrove Finch Project successfully released 15 captive-reared mangrove finch fledglings into the mangrove forest at Playa Tortuga Negra on Isabela. This is the third consecutive year in which eggs have been incubated and chicks reared in captivity, an intervention to counter the pressure that invasive rats and the parasitic fly Philornis have imposed upon this species. It is estimated that there are just 100 individuals left, with fewer than 20 breeding pairs.


reat frigatebirds sleep for less than an hour a day when on foraging trips, researchers find. The birds are known to be able to fly for ten days at a time, covering distances of up to 3000km. By fitting individuals with a small device that measures brain waves, the team found that when the birds are flying, they rest one brain hemisphere at a time, keeping the other active to avoid collisions with other birds. Once they returned to their nests, they would sleep for up to 12 hours a day. © Kelvin Boot

© Galapagos National Park

Galapagos resident who attempted to transport more than 3000 sea cucumbers to mainland Ecuador was sentenced to three years in jail. In January, Galapagos National Park rangers and local police discovered over 80kg of dry, salted sea cucumbers of the Isotichopus fucus and Stichopus horrens species in three storage boxes leaving the Islands. The offender was sentenced in July. The environmental authorities will continue to have a zero tolerance policy where the rights of nature are infringed upon, says GNP director Walter Bustos.




n June, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment announced the appointment of Walter Bustos as director of the Galapagos National Park.

survey of 38 natural science or biology teachers in Galapagos reveals shortcomings in their understanding the way that evolution by natural selection operates. Although 97% of teachers agreed with the statement “I am confident in my understanding of evolution”, the average score in a 10-question test was just 36% compared to 51% achieved by entry-level US undergraduates, report researchers in the Journal of Biological Education.





here are at least three different lineages of black rat in Galapagos, according to a fascinating study on the genetic makeup of this invasive species. Rats are thought to have first reached Galapagos in the last few decades of the 17th century, but analysis of DNA of rats from 15 different islands shows significant variation across the Archipelago. This suggests that the Islands were invaded “by at least three (if not four) separate colonization events from different source populations,” the researchers write in the journal Ecology and Evolution. They also found that the dispersal of rats between islands is probably down to the movement of humans rather than the rats going it alone.


he last time anyone saw a vermilion flycatcher on San Cristobal was in 1987. Analysis of DNA from museum specimens suggests that this brightly coloured bird, now assumed extinct on this island, was a different species from the Galapagos vermilion flycatcher Pyrocephalus nanus found elsewhere in the Archipelago. In addition, the researchers found evidence that for clear differences between different populations of P. nanus, suggesting an ongoing process of speciation. The rapid decline of many of these populations in recent years is therefore of considerable concern, they note in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.




by Luis Ortiz-Catedral


am standing on a rocky promontory some 36m above the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean. I am counting cacti.



After a morning’s work, covering this and other vantage points on this small island in the south of the Galapagos Archipelago, I have recorded 887 cactus trees with a height of one metre or more. This is good news for cactuses, but also for the Floreana mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus) and the Floreana racer (Pseudalsophis biserialis biserialis), a type of terrestrial snake. For I am on Champion, one of just two tiny islets that act as a refuge for these charismatic and endangered denizens of Galapagos. In the past, both mockingbird and racer could be found living on nearby Floreana. The disappearance of these species from this large island is a consequence of their close association with cacti: the mockingbirds feed on nectar from their flowers, sap from their trunks and invertebrates living in the rotting pads that surround them; the snakes depend on the moist, cool, gecko-rich habitat that these plants provide.

But by the early 1900s, introduced mammals like cows, goats and donkeys had decimated Floreana’s cacti, a change that ultimately led to the local extinction of the mockingbird and the racer. The only place these species managed to survive was on Champion and Gardner-by-Floreana, offshore islets that have never seen large mammals and where there are still plenty of cacti. Last year, on Gardner-by-Floreana, my team and I witnessed an extraordinary event that underscores the intricate ecosystem that exists in the understory of these cacti. Reaching up to 30cm long, Darwin’s Goliath centipede (Scolopendra galapagoensis) is one of the largest centipedes on earth. There, amongst the cactus debris, was a particularly large specimen of this formidable predator with a racer skewered on its venomous pincers. Then, within a few seconds, a mockingbird entered the fray and the predator suddenly became prey.


Champion is the islet in the middle distance, one of two refuges for the Floreana mockingbird and Floreana racer. In the foreground is Punta Cormorant, one of the most popular visitor sites on Floreana.

A mockingbird entered the fray and the predator suddenly became prey



THE SNAKE AND THE MOCKINGBIRD Whenever I visit the town Puerto Velasco Ibarra on Floreana and I share my stories of snake-eating centipedes and centipedehunting mockingbirds, some locals look at me as if I were telling stories from far-flung lands rather than from islets less than 20km away. This might soon change. The Floreana Island Restoration Project aims to reestablish the ecological functions that once shaped the island’s lowlands. Part of this venture is already complete. By 2009, the dedicated staff of the Galapagos National Park had succeeded in the removal of nearly 1600 goats and 400 feral donkeys from Floreana. The next step is the eradication of introduced rats and cats from the 173km² island, both of which are predators of birds and snakes. We also need to see a recovery of Floreana’s cacti. On Champion, where there are hundreds of cactus trees, the racket of gulls, boobies, shearwaters, noddies and mockingbirds is impossible to ignore. On the beaches of Floreana, across just 700m of water, the density of cacti is far lower and the contrast is striking. There is just the lapping of waves on the shore and the sound of our footsteps on the lava. The occasional finch or yellow warbler is the only indication that there is a place for birds in this landscape at all. Yet there are promising signs that Floreana’s plant community is coming back. The density of trees, though low, is on the increase. Two of the cactus trees are flowering, with bees buzzing around them and cactus finches gorging on nectar and pollen. With the eradication of rats and cats, hopefully within the next few years, and the further recovery of cacti, it will be possible to think about bringing mockingbirds and racers over from Champion and Gardnerby-Floreana.

A Floreana mockingbird on Champion looks out towards the main island of Floreana across a 700-m stretch of water.

From left to right, Luis Ortiz-Catedral, Fidelino Gaona, Joshua Guilbert, Rebecca Hamner, Alizon Llerena and Josue Ortiz-Catedral.

THANKS Our research on Floreana mockingbirds and Galapagos racers is possible thanks to the support of the Galapagos National Park, Massey University, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Galapagos Conservation Trust, Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund, Galapagos Conservancy Canada and the University of Zurich. All photographs are © Luis Ortiz-Catedral.





nitiatives to eradiate invasive species have succeeded on more than 1100 islands worldwide.

by Karl Campbell of Island Conservation In Galapagos, there have been 64 successful eradication projects to date on 39 different outcrops or islands. But on Floreana, the local community, the Ecuadorian government and NGO partners have a vision that will set a new bar for such conservation interventions. The Floreana Island Restoration Project aims to remove invasive rodents and feral cats from this island, the sixth largest in the Archipelago. The community has embraced this initiative because they recognize it will lead to increased food security, household income and strengthen community tourism. For conservationists, the project is a crucial step in the recovery of some 55 threatened species and a further 13 species – like the Floreana racer and Floreana mockingbird – that have vanished from the island but still survive elsewhere. Others are keen that Ecuador should continue to be a world leader in the field of ecological restoration. Never before has an invasive species

eradication project held such promise for a local community and so many threatened species. The Floreana mockingbird is symbolic of the project as a whole. It’s one of the world’s rarest birds, locally extirpated from Floreana, due in-part to predation from invasive rodents and feral cats. In dry years, the total number of remaining individuals eking out an existence on the two off-shore islets dips below 400. At Island Conservation, we are deeply engaged in a process with the local community and all the partners to realize the vision of this project. Together, we have secured the promise of millions of dollars in funding, but need to find millions more. We are testing methods of eradication and helping landowners and partners develop plans for their part in the operation. We share an optimism for the future of this community and for that of the emblematic Floreana mockingbird.




NEWS © Stephanie Foote

GALAPAGOS GARDEN PARTY A garden party to remember by Jenny Vidler


e are pleased to announce that the annual Galapagos Conservation Trust garden party, held on the evening of Thursday 30 June, was a great success, enjoyed by both the attendees and organisers alike. The rain held off, and the sun broke through the cloud to warm the terrace and garden of the remarkable Bridgewater House in St James’s, London. After drinks and canapés and a welcome from our CEO, Sharon Johnson, Dr Andrew Terry of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust gave an informative presentation on the recent successes of the Mangrove Finch Project. Dr Mark Collins, GCT Chair, then spoke about his adventures in Galapagos on this year’s GCT Supporter Cruise before announcing the details of our 2017 cruise (more information on page 22). We would like to thank everyone who attended and donated so generously, and we hope to see everyone again soon at one of our future events.

FALMOUTH RAVE Galapagos RAVE 2016 by Falmouth University


n April this year a group of students and staff from BA (Hons) Marine and Natural History Photography at Falmouth University undertook a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE) focused on the biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands. Working closely with the Charles Darwin Foundation, the Galapagos National Park and supported by the Galapagos Conservation Trust, the group set out to document, through photography and film, the widest possible range of biodiversity as well as the work of scientists and conservationists. As specialists in both underwater and terrestrial photography and film, the group spent time underwater, diving and snorkelling with a range of marine life, as well as exploring the highland landscape and species on Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabela. Other highlights of this unforgettable trip for both staff and students included taking part in beach-cleaning and turtle-monitoring projects with members of the local ecology club Mola Mola. A selection of the imagery collected during the Falmouth University Galapagos RAVE can be viewed at Galapagos Day on 22 September.


Project Futures: Education




© Austin Ferguson

© Stephanie Foote

ollowing in the footsteps of many readers, our projects officer Dan Wright made the journey to Galapagos in April of this year. Over the past 18 months, Dan has been coordinating the development of Discovering Galapagos, GCT’s bilingual international education programme. As the essential testing phase comes to a close, Dan delivered educational sessions on cutting-edge research and sustainability of the Islands at a bilingual school in Quito before travelling to San Cristobal and Santa Cruz islands in Galapagos. He met with new and existing project partners and interviewed members of the community about their thoughts on education in Galapagos. His research will be contributing directly to an ongoing review of GCT’s strategic objectives. You can find out the latest updates on education projects on pages 14-15.



massive thank you to all of our supporters who gave to the El Niño Appeal earlier this year. We have raised over £18,500 and the figure is still rising. Your support has helped us to implement urgent conservation action for those species that are most threatened by an El Niño event. The conditions in Galapagos over the last six months dramatically reduced the mangrove finch’s opportunity to breed, compounding the difficulties that the Philornis fly has placed on this critically endangered bird. With your support, however, the Mangrove Finch Project has succeeded in hand-rearing and releasing a further 15 mangrove finch chicks into the wild, a significant boost to their tiny population.



Your donation has helped to support other vital projects in Galapagos such as the Giant Tortoise Movement Ecology Programme, which has been busy tracking adult tortoises as well as monitoring nests and hatchlings. It is hoped that these data will help us understand how tortoise movement and hatchling survival is affected during an El Niño year. The work that your money has supported and continues to support is critical to strengthening future conservation plans and decisions. Please continue to donate either using the form at the back of this magazine or online at galapagosconservation.org.uk/donate. Thank you!


e would like to give a massive thank you to all our photo competition entrants. There was a great selection of photos and the GCT team had a hard time choosing the winners. Below is our 2016 winner and three of our runners up.

This image was taken by Evangelina in December 2014 on Isabela Island. “On our way to the Wall of Tears, on Isabela Island, we came across this cute flycatcher who stood on the perfect perch just for a second,” she says. “It was enough.”

Winner: Galapagos flycatcher by Evangelina Indelicato

Highly Commended: Iguanas by Jane Savage

Commended: Red-billed tropicbird by Jenny Howard

Man in the Archipelago 1st Place: Dawn in Galapagos by Robert Stanley


The 2017 GCT photography competition is now open. To enter the next competition or to see all the winners and runners up from this and previous competitions, visit our website galapagosconservation.org.uk/get-involved






loreana island is a place of wonder and mystery. From the compelling human history to the fascinating flora and fauna, this island is special and has captured the hearts of many visitors to Galapagos. As well as encapsulating all of the amazing elements of the Galapagos Archipelago, it is sadly also a bleak example of the environmental decimation brought about by human impacts over time, as seen in Dr Luis Ortiz-Catedral's article where many species have been driven to local extinction. However, there is a new optimism for Floreana, the wildlife and its people. A highly comprehensive, multi-year programme is being initiated by a group of dedicated partners to turn this example of environmental degradation to one of recovery, restoration and hope. The project partners include the Galapagos National Park, Island Conservation, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Dr Luis Ortiz-Catedral to name but a few and all are keen to maximise their impact by working closely together to restore Floreana to its former ecological glory. This will truly be an unprecedented project on a

global scale, one of the most ambitious restoration projects ever seen on an inhabited island. By supporting this work, with strong input from the local community, we are both supporting the restoration of Floreana and providing an essential blueprint for use around the world in other threatened inhabited islands. This year, we are launching a campaign with the long-term aim of reintroducing the Floreana mockingbird and Floreana racer back onto the island - building upon the amazing science and sustainability work done to date on the island and the nearby islets of Gardner-by-Floreana and Champion where the species are currently found. If you would like to be a part of this global conservation first and help us to kick start this campaign, please send in your donation via the form in the back of this issue or visit our website to donate online. We look forward to keeping you updated with this exciting programme.



Š Trevor Platt

ince 2010, GCT has supported a long-term collaborative project between the Charles Darwin Foundation, the Galapagos National Park and eminent international researchers on the famous flightless birds of the Archipelago, the Galapagos penguin and the flightless cormorant. Regular surveys are carried out at key colonies for both species, enabling any early warnings of population changes to be noted and acted upon quickly. This was particularly important in the last year as the El NiĂąo event caused concerns for the already fragile populations. The project team is continuing to contribute to the growing knowledge base supporting management strategies for protecting these iconic species against the threats of invasive species, a changing climate and rising anthropogenic factors. In addition to undertaking critical population censuses, research continues into the risk posed by avian malaria across the Archipelago and the potential impacts of exposure to marine pollutants. Thanks to our generous donors and the Project Penguin initiative run by our long-term partners at The Deep aquarium, we have been able to continue this important work and grow the programme to include a new species, the critically endangered waved albatross. The waved albatross breeds only on Espanola island in Galapagos meaning that the monitoring of this habitat is essential for its protection. In addition to threats in the nesting area posed by invasive rats, the albatrosses must also contend with fishing gear and plastic pollution during their open ocean foraging. We are looking forward to getting the first results back from this exciting programme and updating you in the next issue of Galapagos Matters.




n less than two years after its launch, Discovering Galapagos has welcomed over 100,000 visitors to its English- and Spanish-language websites. We are delighted that so many people have engaged with this bilingual international education programme, developed and managed by the Galapagos Conservation Trust in collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). We are now exploring how best to deliver the award-winning resources in Galapagos and mainland Ecuador as part of the Galapagos Conservation Trust’s education and sustainability remit.


L ittle did the crew of HMS Beagle know that their passage through Galapagos would change the world forever. In the latest addition to the Discovering Galapagos resources, the Discovering Darwin section takes an in-depth look at the man behind the revolutionary theory of natural selection, the experiences in Galapagos that inspired his notions, and the iconic species of Galapagos that have adapted to island life over millions of years. This new section with an evolutionary focus has been developed to coincide with several curriculum changes that see evolution education coming to the forefront of science education at younger ages. The resources we have produced will support primary and early secondary teachers who may have limited experience with the key concepts underlying evolution, helping them to meet the curriculum objectives with a fresh Galapagosinfused perspective. Galapagos comes to life in the classroom through a collection of expertly-crafted web pages making the best use of videos, imagery and technology to guide teachers, students and enthusiasts through Darwin’s life, his voyage on the Beagle and the latest research into how Galapagos species are adapted to their environments. You can visit evolution.discoveringgalapagos.org.uk now! For any feedback or questions, please contact our projects team (projects@gct.org).


We believe that lasting change must begin with engaging today’s students and early-career decision makers – our future conservation ambassadors. The future of Galapagos will soon be guided by the young people of today and we feel strongly about supporting projects in Galapagos with clear educational outputs. As we put the finishing touches on our education strategy for the next few years, we are excited to announce that the Spanish-language Descubriendo Galapagos website is going from strength to strength. The site is currently being accessed more than 7,000 times per month across Ecuador. On Galapagos where poor internet connectivity restricts the ability to make the most of the online resources, we are testing face to face sessions in six schools in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal in the second half of this year. For the latest updates on GCT’s education projects, please sign up to the Discovering Galapagos newsletter by visiting discoveringgalapagos.org.uk/newsletter.




We found the sea lion sleeping in a children’s playground beneath a water slide

© Stella Villegas-Amtmann


fter many days of radio silence, we suddenly heard a beep. It was the signal from a transmitter we had attached to a Galapagos sea lion ten days earlier. That is how we knew she was back from her foraging trip, returning to the island of San Cristobal to nurse her hungry pup that had been waiting on the beach.



The signal was strong but its direction was hard to determine. We searched all the beaches where sea lions haul out, but this female was nowhere to be found. It was crucial to locate her as she was carrying an instrument with highly valuable information about her foraging trip, and we needed a sample to help us to determine the metabolic rate of this species for the first time. As we walked through town, searching for higher ground to scan, the signal became stronger. How could this be? There was no beach nearby. The sea lion surprised us. Eventually we found her lying in the middle of town, sleeping in a children’s playground beneath a water slide. We transported her down to the beach and recovered our instruments.

The Galapagos sea lion poses a conundrum. Of all six extant sea lion species, this is the smallest. Adult females have a mass of around 75 kg compared to California sea lions, the next smallest species, with an approximate mass of 95 kg. There is a limit then to the amount of oxygen they can carry, which should constrain their ability to make long, deep dives. Yet all evidence to date suggests that the Galapagos sea lion is a more proficient diver than many of its closest relatives. As the Galapagos sea lion lives in less productive, unpredictable and warmer waters than other species, it could have evolved the ability to operate at a lower metabolic rate. In order to explore this idea, we studied the behaviour of ten female Galapagos sea lions that were suckling pups and yearlings.

west, suggesting the two groups may be targeting different prey types. Females going north are probably hunting fish in the water column, both close to the surface and at great depths, while females going west are likely after those nearer the sea floor. The data from the time-depth recorders confirmed just how impressive this species is at diving, with events often lasting well over ten minutes and reaching depths of almost 600m below sea level. This far exceeds the reported duration and depths of the New Zealand sea lion, the species formerly considered to be the sea lion with the longest, deepest dives. Our calculations of metabolic rate hint at how they might be achieving such feats. The Galapagos sea lion has the lowest metabolic rate of any sea lion measured to date.

All these traits – the flexibility of foraging patterns, the extreme dives and the low metabolic rate – may help the Galapagos sea lion to survive in an environment where the waters are frequently warm and the productivity is low and unpredictable. In spite of these adaptations to change, however, Galapagos sea lion pups commonly face higher nutritional stress than sea lions living at higher latitudes. The concern, therefore, is that the oceans continue to warm and productivity declines still further. For the Galapagos sea lion, a species that might already be operating close to its physiological limit, this may prove to be a change too far.

© Kelvin Boot © Stella Villegas-Amtmann

by Stella Villegas-Amtmann

We focused on lactating females given that lactation is the most energetically expensive period in the life of mammals. We fitted them with time-depth recorders to inform us about the depth and duration of their dives and VHF radio transmitters to help us locate them on land. Before release, we injected them with a small dose of isotopically labeled water and took a blood sample. A second blood sample collected soon after each animal returned from a foraging trip would allow us to calculate their metabolic rate. Interestingly, we found that the age of the pups had a strong effect upon the foraging behaviour of these mothers. Those with the youngest pups around one-month old travelled to the north of San Cristobal, whilst females with older yearlings headed




THE SNAIL by Christine Parent



These snails have been hiding away from tourists and scientists alike


f you ever have the chance of strolling along the well-marked paths of the Galapagos National Park, you will quickly be greeted animals that make up some of the most extraordinary fauna in the world. Darwin’s finches, land iguanas and giant tortoises are the vivid result of millions of years of natural selection on isolated populations. Even more extraordinary is that the most diverse group of species on Galapagos will likely escape your attention. Alongside the more charismatic fauna, a group of rather small and inconspicuous species has been hiding away from tourists and scientists alike.

With 82 currently known species, Galapagos land snails belonging to the genus Naesiotus are by far the most species-rich group on these Islands. These snails are small, their shells never reaching more than 3cm in length. The color of their shells often matches the substrate the snails are found on, helping them to blend in with their environment. Although most Galapagos visitors will not see a single live snail during their stay on the islands, they might notice the piles of bleached shells along some of the paths. A closer look at these piles will quickly reveal one of most remarkable aspects about these snails: the many forms and shapes their shells can take. In the same way that Darwin’s finches evolved different types of beaks adapted to a range of available diet, thousands of years of natural selection have fashioned Naesiotus shells in dozens of different shapes and sizes. Unlike Darwin’s finches, however, it is still unclear why and how these many snail forms arose. Naesiotus snails are found throughout South America, but all Galapagos Naesiotus species are unique to the Islands and not found anywhere else in the world. Once they arrived in Galapagos, Naesiotus snails wandered off their beaten path: whereas their mainland relatives are almost exclusively found at the base of grassy vegetation in open habitats, the Galapagos Naesiotus have expanded their comfort zone and are found under rocks and logs in the arid zones, clinging under leaves, on twigs and on tree trunks in the humid zones, and at the base of patches of grass at the summit of most Galapagos volcanoes. This expansion into novel habitats could well have contributed to the diversity in snails we see today.

At lower elevations, the snails tend to have bright white and elongated shells, perhaps because these features allow them to reflect heat from the sun and minimise water loss through the tiny opening in the shell. In wetter and cooler habitats further up, where the snails do not have to worry about drying out in the sun, their shells are much larger, rounder and thinner, accommodating their larger bodies without having to pay the costs associated with producing a lot of calcium carbonate material to build their shells. Our research team has cumulated months of research in the field to map the distribution of the snails on the Islands and collect precious data regarding their preferred habitats and ecology. We have collected shells from the ground and used them to characterize the morphological variation of each species. Using a small sample of DNA from some individuals, we have been able to establish the genealogy of the different species and uncover the sequence of species formation and colonization from one island to the next. It appears that as they were changing and adapting to the different environments, the snails were also hopping from older to younger islands multiple times. Indeed, Naesiotus snails have been closely tracking the geological formation of the Islands and colonizing them practically as soon as they were formed. We have now described a great deal of the diversity observed in this remarkable lineage. In doing so, we have also established that more than half of the species are currently critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List criteria for threatened species, and the great majority of the other half are either endangered or near threatened.

A lot of these species have experienced sharp declines in the last 40 years, and numerous species have not been seen alive since the 1970s. As we continue expanding our island explorations, we have rediscovered live populations of species we feared were extinct, and discovered species completely new to science. This has encouraged us to continue monitoring known populations to understand the factors responsible for population declines in some of the species. Snails don’t need very much to survive; a small patch of well-preserved habitat might suffice. Our most pressing challenge is to find these patches and make sure the snails found in these areas remain well protected.

At low elevations where water is scarce, the Naesiotus species tend to have elongated shells with tiny openings (left). At higher altitudes, where dessication is less of a problem, the species often have rounder and thinner shells with larger openings.




© Simon Pierce


he important contribution of fisheries to human well-being is frequently underestimated. So began a report on the global value of fisheries published by The World Bank in 2012. The fishing industry can be divided into three sectors: the large, commercial operations aimed at making a profit; small-scale subsistence or artisanal fisheries where the goal is survival; and recreational or sport fishing, which is fishing for pleasure. One of the most striking findings of The World Bank report is the under appreciated scale of the sport fishing sector. “There are an estimated 225 million recreational fishers, or anglers, worldwide – almost twice the number of commercial fishers,” the authors wrote. Conservatively, the sector generates over $190 billion every year. In Costa Rica alone, foreign anglers brought in $279 million in 2008, representing 2.13% of the country’s gross domestic product.



On this basis, there is a strong case for encouraging recreational fishing. For many fishermen, it offers a viable alternative to commercial fishing thereby reducing the pressure on already intensely harvested stocks. Sport fishermen can also provide additional eyes for patrolling and be required to report illegal commercial fishing vessels to the relevant authorities. In the Galapagos Marine Reserve, the law is clear about what kinds of fishing are permissible. Commercial fishing is restricted to registered local captains. Artisanal fishing, variously referred to as “pesca vivencial”, “pesca artesanal vivencial” or simply PAV, is permitted. Sport fishing or “pesca deportiva” is not. In practice, however, recreational fishing in Galapagos is on the increase. A basic internet search turns up thousands upon thousands of hits. The reality is that approved and registered PAV fishers are permitted to conduct recreational fishing tours provided they abide by a “catch and release” system. This highlights a discrepancy between the way that tourist activity is controlled on land and at sea. On land, visitors are restricted to clearly demarcated paths, with naturalist guides strictly enforcing regulations, prohibiting direct contact with wildlife, collecting, smoking and even flash

by Jack Grove

photography. At sea, however, in the marine protected area, the tourist-fishers who come from around the world to hook game fish including tuna, mackerel and wahoo have far fewer restrictions. The assumption is that “catch and release” of these sport fish is not damaging. Unfortunately there are no studies on the survival rates of exhausted marlin when released back into Galapagos waters. One of the successes of the Galapagos Marine Reserve is the haven it provides for sharks, but there is evidence from elsewhere that these top predators exploit weakened, bleeding billfish that have been stressed by a battle on the line. Sport fishing poses a direct challenge to marine conservation. As I cautioned in the preface to The Fishes of Galapagos, first published almost 20 years ago, there should be no place for recreational fishing in a protected area like the Galapagos Marine Reserve. As things stand, with PAV fishermen offering sport fishing tours to tourists, there is a limit to the damage. As the human population and number of visitors to Galapagos continue to increase, however, the Galapagos National Park must do all it can to prevent the escalation of this activity to the kind of scale that is seen in many other regions of the world.




he Galapagos Conservation Trust is privileged to have such an enthusiastic and generous supporter base. The GCT Membership programme has continued to grow since its conception in 1995 and there are now approximately 3500 GCT members. Our members not only provide vital financial support to improve the environmental sustainability of the Islands, they also form a strong conservation community, which is helping to protect Galapagos and its wildlife.


L eaving a gift in your Will is a valuable and lasting way you can support Galapagos. GCT has been honoured to receive a variety of legacies from supporters and we will always uphold the wishes of the supporter and their vision for their legacy. Some supporters wish for their gift to help a specific type of wildlife in the Islands about which they were especially passionate; some wish their legacy to go to the most urgent projects at that time. No matter the size of the donation, each gift is incredibly important to the future of Galapagos.


I f you have been to Galapagos it is unlikely that you left without being moved by the unique Archipelago. Some GCT supporters have brought their enthusiasm for the Islands to life in the UK by giving talks and lectures to groups around the country, with topics ranging from their personal experiences during their trip to the conservation of the Islands. GCT is able to provide images and presentation slides for supporters wishing to give talks.


L ike many charities in the UK, GCT has a team of wonderful volunteers who assist the staff in every department. Just a small sample of the tasks undertaken by volunteers includes administration, design, technical assistance, educational resource development, help at events and writing communications. By volunteering their time and expertise, GCT volunteers enable the charity to provide additional assistance to Galapagos. Volunteers are vital in supporting the work of our small team. If you would like to volunteer at GCT, please send us a copy of your CV to gct@gct.org and let us know which area you are most interested in.

To find out more about these and other ways to help GCT then please contact the GCT office, email gct@gct.org or visit galapagosconservation.org.uk/get-involved

SPECIAL THANKS GCT would like to extend a special thanks to Dr Pete Ormerod, a generous GCT member who has just given his 100th talk about Galapagos and has raised over ÂŁ2000 towards conservation in the Islands!






oin GCT on a trip of a lifetime to Galapagos on the brand new yacht, Natural Paradise. Sailing over 8 days in May 2017, this unique opportunity will bring you face to face with some of the Islands most enchanting wildlife and iconic landscapes. Starting off the trip visiting one of the largest sea lion colonies on Mosquera Islet, the cruise will then take you on a breathtaking journey around Galapagos. Daily excursions include swimming with penguins near Isabela, a chilling visit to the Wall of Tears, the bright red beaches of Rabida and world-class snorkelling at Cormorant Point. © Monty Halls

by Julian Fitter, Daniel Fitter and David Hosking, Princeton University Press, 2016, 2nd edition, $19.95, ISBN 9780691170428 Reviewed by Henry Nicholls book is not just about identification, it is about the “ T his animals and plants themselves, why they are interesting

or important,” writes Julian Fitter, one of the founders of the Galapagos Conservation Trust, in the introduction to the new edition of Wildlife of the Galápagos. More than 15 years after the publication of the first edition, Fitter, his son Daniel and photographer David Hosking have brought their popular guidebook bang up to date, reflecting name changes, the discovery of new species, changes to visitor sites and the inclusion of a new fish section. There is no question: this is the finest, most comprehensive guidebook to Galapagos geology, flora and fauna and a must-have purchase for anyone planning a trip to the Islands.

GALAPAGOS APP GALAPAGOS NATIONAL PARK OFFICIAL by PWW Comunicaciones del Ecuador SA, Free, App Store, Google Play, compatible with Apple and Android Reviewed by Henry Nicholls


he Galapagos National Park has invested in an app aimed at visitors to Galapagos. With a Spanish and English version, the main feature is a list of all the islands that contain visitor sites. Selecting one of these brings up the opportunity to tab between terrestrial and marine sites on or around that island, opening the way to a summary of what to see at each specific location, a little history and a photo gallery. The overviews are brief at the moment, some without any information at all and there does not appear to be a map, but this will surely change with future releases. It makes good sense to download a copy of this freely available app before travelling to Galapagos. It will then function without having to rely on the patchy internet access in the islands. “We all have an inside Darwin. Let him free with this App,” the developers suggest.

For the 2017 cruise we are joining up with Travel Matters and Go Barefoot to bring you a seamless booking experience and first-class customer service, all in the knowledge that you are supporting responsible tourism and conservation of this unique Archipelago. For bookings, more information or to receive a brochure, please contact Travel Matters on 020 8675 7878 or email info@travelmatters.co.uk

A wonderful experience – excellent organisation by GCT, wealth of knowledge and expertise from the team of Monty, Mark and Peter, fellow passengers, and terrific crew of the Majestic Margaret Pile | GCT Supporter Cruise 2016

Go Barefoot Travel is an award-winning sustainable travel operator (Best Responsible Travel Operator Site 2014 – 2016). Go Barefoot is driven by an ethical and environmental ethos working in partnership with NGOs, universities, cooperatives and social enterprises to provide more insightful and enriching travel experiences, away from the conventional and commercial tourist circuits. Financially protected by the Travel Trust Association. Travel Matters, established 18 years ago was founded on the principle of service. The team was voted by SATOA the best UK travel agency in 2013 & 2015. Their commitment to responsible tourism is shown in their awareness campaign www.maketravelmatter.co.uk




For more information about events and to book your tickets, simply visit galapagosconservation.org.uk/events or call us on 020 7399 7440



Win the trip of a lifetime to Galapagos for just £1


ave the date! This year Galapagos Day will be held at a new venue: Regent’s University London in Regent’s Park. We have taken on board the feedback you gave after Galapagos Day 2015 and we hope to make this year’s event better than ever. The evening will start with a welcome from our ambassador and environmentalist, Stanley Johnson, followed by Dr Glyn Young from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust with a Mangrove Finch Project update and Dr Richard Kirby who will be speaking about some of the most important organisms on the planet, plankton. As well as the talks, there will be amazing photography on display, with the winners of the 2016 GCT photography competition as well as an exhibition from Falmouth University. This year’s Galapagos Day is sponsored by Steppes Travel steppestravel.co.uk.


nter the annual GCT raffle and be in with a chance of winning a cabin for two on a 5-day cruise of Galapagos and £1,000 each towards flights. The cruise will be hosted by Metropolitan Touring, in association with Mundy Adventures, on board the Santa Cruz II yacht.

Payments can be made using the form at the end of this magazine or online at galapagosconservation.org.uk/raffle.

Payments for raffle tickets sent by post must be received by 19 September 2016. The draw will take place on 22 September at Galapagos Day. Terms and conditions apply (see the back of the payments form for more information).

Tickets are still available to purchase from our website, via telephone or through the form on the back page of this magazine.


MERCHANDISE Christmas Cards

All cards read: “Seasons Greetings | Felices Fiestas” and come in packs of 10 with envelopes. Price: £3.50/ pack or 2 packs for £6!

Penguin Cards

Our 2017 calendar is filled with eye-catching photos of Galapagos’ finest wildlife. From Galapagos flycatchers to marine iguanas we’ve got the whole year covered. This year’s calendar features images from our President, Monty Halls, along with the winning entry from our 2016 Galapagos Photography Competition. [Only £10]

Mangrove Finch Cards

These festive cards feature an image of a mangrove finch taken by Francesca Cunninghame, project leader of the Mangrove Finch Project.

Order these and other Galapagos merchandise using the form on the back page or online at galapagosconservation.org.uk/shop

© Francesca Cunninghame

2017 Galapagos Calendar

Our Galapagos penguin Christmas card features a lovely illustration of a penguin on a rock by children’s author and artist Alexis Deacon.



Please fill in your details below: Name: ........................................................................................... Address: ....................................................................................... ....................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................... Post code:..................................................................................... Telephone:.................................................................................... Email:.............................................................................................

METHOD OF PAYMENT Please tick one: Cheque (payable to Galapagos Conservation Trust) Credit card

Debit card

CAF voucher

CAF card

NB: We do not accept American Express or Maestro.

Name on card: ........................................................................ Card no: .................................................................................. Expiry date:.............................................................................. Issue no / Start date:................................................................ Security code:..........................................................................

 es! I am a UK tax payer. Please reclaim tax on all my Y donations and subscriptions made in the past four years and all future donations. No, I am not a UK taxpayer. Date:.........................................................................................

GALAPAGOS RAFFLE Enter the annual GCT raffle and be in with a chance of winning a cabin for two on a 5-day cruise of Galapagos and £1,000 each towards flights. The cruise will be hosted by Metropolitan Touring, in association with Mundy Adventures, on board the Santa Cruz II yacht. Enter using the payment form overleaf. You can pay for tickets by cheque, credit/debit card or online at galapagosconservation.org.uk/raffle. Cheques should be payable to ‘Galapagos Conservation Trust’. The winner will be notified by email or telephone, and announced at Galapagos Day on 22 September 2016. The Galapagos Conservation Trust is registered with the Gambling Commission for Great Britain and encourages people to gamble responsibly. Licence No: 000-004768-N-316490-003. Registered Charity No: 1043470. Tickets are not to be sold to or by any person under the age of 16. Maximum 50 tickets per person. Promoter: Sharon Johnson, Charles Darwin Suite, 28 Portland Place, London, W1B 1LY. Tickets are non-refundable. For full terms and conditions please visit our website galapagosconservation.org.uk/raffle.

Payment by post to be received by 19 September 2016.

PAYMENT FORM There are several easy ways to place an order or donate in support of our work. 1. Via our website galapagosconservation.org.uk 2. By telephone on 020 7399 7440 3. By completing the details on this form and returning with your preferred payment method to: Galapagos Conservation Trust, Charles Darwin Suite, 28 Portland Place, London, W1B 1LY The Future of Floreana

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Make a donation to our Floreana Appeal I would like to give: £30 / £60 / £100 / £300 / Other (please circle) to help restore Floreana.


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2017 GCT Calendar


Mangrove Finch Christmas Cards (Pack of 10)

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Penguin Christmas Cards (Pack of 10)

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Galapagos Endangered Bird Notelets by Mary Ellen Taylor


Signed paperback edition of The Galapagos by Henry Nicholls


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Galapagos Matters Autumn/Winter 2016  

Galapagos Matters Autumn/Winter 2016