Floreana Island, Galápagos is the sixth largest island within the Galápagos archipelago and lies 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador. In 1978, the Galápagos were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Galápagos National Park Directorate manages more than 98 percent of Floreana Island; an agricultural zone (230 ha) and the town of Puerto Valasco Ibarra (42 ha, 140 residents) fills the remaining 2 percent. Floreana Island is an Alliance for Zero Extinction site.
loreana Island in the Galápagos archipelago is home to an incredible diversity of native species found nowhere else in the world, including Galápagos Penguins, Galápagos Petrels, Marine Iguanas, land snails and Darwin’s finches. Unfortunately, the fifty-four IUCN Threatened species that call this island home are threatened by the presence of feral cats and invasive rats and mice.
Floreana Island was first settled in 1832 and now has a small community of 140 people that rely on tourism, farming, and a small fishery to support them. Island Conservation (IC) is supporting the Floreana community and other partners in achieving the partnership’s shared vision of a restored Floreana free of invasive species. This will allow the island’s unique fauna the opportunity to flourish and thrive and create the conditions for sustainable community tourism and farming on the island. IC conducted field studies on the island to identify options for invasive rodent and feral cat removal. With partners, we are working to develop and implement key strategies to achieve these shared goals.
1. GALÁPAGOS PETREL
More than 60 percent of the world population of this Critically Endangered seabird breeds on Floreana. To avoid native predators, this species comes and goes from its breeding colony under the cover of darkness. But this is no protection against introduced cats and rats. One study found almost 50 percent of Galápagos Petrel nests on Floreana were predated despite efforts to locally reduce feral cat and invasive rat predation.
2. FLOREANA MOCKINGBIRD
Of the four mockingbird species found only in the Galápagos, the Critically Endangered Floreana Mockingbird is the most at risk of extinction. In the absence of native rodents or feline predators, these birds evolved to spend much time on the ground. Feral cats and invasive rats introduced to the island are likely major factors in the mockingbird’s extirpation from Floreana Island. Today, it is only found on two small predator-free offshore islets.
Photo: Bill Weir
3. LAND SNAIL
Twenty species (and eight subspecies) of endemic land snails are known on Floreana Island. The IUCN Red List considers three of these species Critically Endangered, six as Endangered, and four as Vulnerable, while the other seven remain to be evaluated. Introduced rats and mice prey heavily on native snails and are the primary threat. On nearby Rábida Island, endemic snails were considered extinct, only to be rediscovered two years after rodent removal. On Pinzón Island, two years after rat eradication a snail species new to science was discovered.
Photo: Christine Parent
4. FLOREANA GIANT TORTOISE
The endemic Floreana Giant Tortoise was considered extinct by 1850. However, the species was recently rediscovered through genetic analysis of wild tortoises historically translocated by whalers to Isabela Island. The presence of invasive species on Floreana prevents the possibility of tortoises breeding there. Weighing up to 320 kilograms and standing stretched more than 1.2 meters, the Floreana Giant Tortoise is a critical, natural part of the Floreana ecosystem performing important roles, such as seed scarification and dispersal, soil disturbance, and grazing.
To restore Floreana Island’s ecosystem by removing invasive species in order to protect the island’s rare and endangered plants and animals and benefit the local community.
Livelihoods of Floreana residents are improved and native species are once again thriving on Floreana Island, providing pride, enjoyment and economic benefits to Galapagueños, Ecuadorians, and international visitors.
A suite of invasive species threaten native plants and animals through predation and competition for resources. The Critically Endangered Floreana Mockingbird can no longer breed on Floreana Island due to feral cats and invasive rats, and is currently restricted to two small, nearby islets, Champion and Gardner Islands.
With support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Island Conservation is working with the island community, Floreana Parish Council, Galápagos National Park Directorate, Galápagos Biosecurity Agency of the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Agriculture to plan and implement our shared vision of reviving Floreana’s natural island ecosystem by removing feral cats, rats, and mice.
Karl has a PhD from the University of Queensland, Australia. As part of his doctoral work, he developed advanced procedures for Judas goats, involving sterilization, pregnancy termination, and hormone therapy, which he applied to increase the effectiveness of Judas goats in large-scale campaigns he was managing in the Galápagos Islands. Karl has more than fifteen years of island restoration experience and has served as field manager of the world’s two largest island restoration projects on Isabela and Santiago Islands. He is experienced in planning, budgeting, and implementing large-scale projects and leveraging technology to increase their cost-efficiency. Advanced restoration expertise combined with his management skills make him invaluable in island conservation projects.