Community Drives Restoration of Floreana Island, Galápagos

Island Conservation, the Galapagos Conservation Trust, and our partners are working with the Floreana Community to drive their vision of a more sustainable Floreana.

By: Chad Hanson

On Floreana Island, Galápagos, conservation and the idea of building a more sustainable future has become an integral part of the daily community discussion. As residents of the sixth largest island in an archipelago, known for its rich biodiversity, the Floreana community watched in disappointment over the years as damaging, non-native (invasive) rodents contributed to the local extinctions of endemic species (found now where else in the world) and impacted the local economy.

Now, in an effort to help build a sustainable Floreana, Island Conservation, the Galapagos Conservation Trust, and other partners are working with the community to remove the invasive species that have so drastically impacted the island. One of the most important aspects of the Floreana project has been the focus on transparent communication with the community to not only save native species but to reinvigorate the local economy through a boost in tourism and more sustainable agricultural practices.

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The Endangered Floreana Mockingbird has been extirpated from its namesake island due to predation by invasive species. Credit: Bill Weir

Floreana Island was once home to some of the world’s most incredible species including the Floreana Mockingbird and the Floreana Giant Tortoise. Now, these species are locally extinct. In the case of the Mockingbird, they only exist on two off-shore islets – Champion and Garner. The endemic Giant Tortoise was considered extinct but genetic testing of tortoises on Isabela Island found that whalers in fact transported some Floreana species to the island. After restoration, these native species will have a chance to once again thrive on their home island.

As part of building a more sustainable Floreana, one of the key concerns for both conservationists and the community has been the impact could have on domestic livestock. In the past, free-range livestock has been a concern since more than 98% of the island is managed by the Galapagos National Park and is therefore protected. To address this and to keep wild and domestic species safe, a few changes needed to be made to the infrastructure of the island.

On Floreana Island, livestock are vital to the local economy and the community. In order to protect the livestock during implementation of the project, Island Conservation and the Galapagos Conservation Trust are working closely with the community to prevent the cows, horses and mules, chickens, and pigs from any unintended exposure to conservation bait. One of the key concerns is removing any exposure pathway. The solution—shipping containers.

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Island Restoration Specialist, Victor Carrion, explains the use of shipping containers as silage.

Shipping containers will allow the community to safely store grains and resources for their livestock while preventing access to rodents looking for a home or meal. This provides a two-fold benefit as it removes an alternative food source to rodents while protecting livestock feed from possible contamination. Shipping containers are not the only solution-oriented infrastructure necessary for the project. To adequately protect chickens, Island Conservation, the Galapagos Conservation Trust, and partners are also working with the community to design and build chicken coops which are being distributed to all community members who need them. These coops will not only protect chickens during implementation but will lead to higher production rates long-term, therefore benefiting the community members and local economy.

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Island Conservation staff members break ground and help build new chicken coops.

The Floreana community and our partners are excited and hopeful for the future of the island and helping to build a more sustainable Floreana.

Featured photo: Landscape view of Floreana Island. Credit: Island Conservation

About Chad Hanson

Chad has planned and implemented projects worldwide including islands in the Pacific Northwest, central and South Pacific Ocean, California, South America, and the Caribbean. If it has a throttle, trigger, or could use a creative design, it’ll spark his interest. Chad loves spending time with family and friends and pairing micro-brews with beautiful views.

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