Isla de la Plata, Ecuador is a small island (1,420 ha) that is part of the Machalilla National Park in Manabi, located 40 km off the coast near Puerto Lopez. This island is the country’s most important seabird breeding site outside of the Galapagos. Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) breed on only two islands globally; on Isla Española in the Galápagos and on Isla de la Plata where up to 15 pairs have been observed.
Feral goats are one of the greatest threats to the insular biodiversity that Ecuador’s National Park system was established to protect. However, The Galapagos National Park has become a world leader in removing feral goats from islands, having removed goats from the largest two islands (Santiago and Isabela). A recent initiative saw the Galapagos National Park (GNP) providing technical assistance to the Machalilla National Park Service (MNPS) to remove feral goats from Isla de la Plata. The Ecuadorian NGO Equilibrio Azul and the American NGO Island Conservation facilitated the action.
In January and March 2008, the GNPS removed 59 feral goats. It is believed that these were the last feral goats on Isla de la Plata and that the island is now goat free.
Vegetation on Plata has seen rapid re-growth with the recent rains and without goats – good news for the native wildlife. Recovery of vegetation has also been swift on the Galapagos Islands where goats have been removed. On Santiago Island a small ground dwelling bird, the Galapagos rail, increased more than ten-fold after goats and pigs were removed.Species of endemic plants, once rare on Santiago have dramatically increased in numbers.
The Galapagos National Park expertise has also assisted in removing goats from Guadalupe Island, Mexico. The Isla de la Plata restoration project is a prime example of how Ecuadorian governmental departments, local and international NGOs can work together to deliver measurable and meaningful results.
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