Protecting Livelihoods and Biodiversity from Invasive Species on Floreana Island

Island Conservation and partners with support from the Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund are working with the Floreana Island community to help build a more sustainable Floreana.

The Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic Fund supports work to build a sustainable Floreana Island, Galápagos

By: Chad Hanson

On an island that is home to roughly 140 people, conservation often means more than helping endangered species—it means working with the community to find solutions that work for them.

Floreana Island is the sixth largest island within the Galápagos archipelago and lies 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador. The island is home to a diverse group of species including the largest breeding colony of Critically Endangered Galápagos Petrels, Critically Endangered Medium Tree-finch, and the Floreana Mockingbird; a species that is now locally extinct and only present on two offshore islets. Today, invasive rats, mice, and feral cats which have been introduced to the island threaten the island’s native species.


The Endangered Floreana Mockingbird has been extirpated from its namesake island due to predation by invasive species. Credit: Paula Castaño/Island Conservation

However, native wildlife are not the only island residents harmed by invasive species. Over the years, the local community has watched as their livelihoods, including agriculture and tourism, have been impacted. Tourism is a driving economic force, but the presence of invasive species has led to a drastic decline in the unique and awe-inspiring animals that people travel from around the world to see. The Floreana community feels the impact of this loss in biodiversity in their daily lives and aims to re-build a sustainable Floreana focused on community-based tourism and ecological responsibility.

It’s clear—restoring Floreana Island means addressing all aspects affecting the community and working with them to find the most equitable solutions while also preventing the extinction of native wildlife. With support from the Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic Fund (LEX-NG), Island Conservation and a suite of other partners are working with the Floreana community to identify the best approach to remove invasive species with the goal of helping people and the ecosystem thrive.  Island Conservation Restoration Specialist, Paula Castaño explained:

Since the beginning it was clear to us that working with the community and making them part of finding the best approach to remove invasive species from Floreana was key. They have been instrumental for determining the best approach for minimizing any unintended exposure to their livestock from the proposed removal of invasive species while also looking to increase their long-term productivity and achieve our common goal of ecologically restoring Floreana Island.”


Island Conservation’s South America Regional Director, Karl Campbell, talks with partners about the Floreana Restoration Project. Credit: Island Conservation

One of the key concerns of the project is protecting livestock, particularly domestic chickens, during implementation when a rodenticide will be distributed on the island. In order to prevent the chickens from any unintended exposure, Island Conservation, our partners, and the local community needed to identify the most efficient and logical method for protection and mitigation. It initially appeared that removing chickens from the island was the best approach; however, this was not a practical solution for the community. The question remained—how do we protect chickens during implementation and into the future?

The answer—chicken coops!


Prior to building durable chicken coops, many farms had minimal fencing to protect the chickens. Credit: Emily Heber/Island Conservation

Island Conservation, our partners, and the community uncovered the suite of benefits chicken coops will have for the community. Chickens will be protected during the project, but the benefits extend beyond that. Chicken coops actually increase the volume of bird and egg production, therefore providing more food for the community, and reliable production that will improve the economic viability of raising chickens on Floreana.

Additionally, by housing chickens in coops during the project and into the future, the community can make way for the repatriation of native Galápagos Hawks; a species that is no longer present on the island due to their historic predation on chickens and subsequent removal as a pest. By eliminating free-range chickens, the threat posed to livestock is removed as well, creating support for hawk reintroduction.


Island Conservation staff members help build a new enclosure for the chickens. Credit: Royden Saah/Island Conservation

Island Conservation has spent the past few years working with the community and architects to design the ideal chicken coop. Thanks to generous support from the LEX-NG Fund and other partners, the chicken coops are now under construction. A lottery system was used to construct two coops as a proof of concept, and Island Conservation and partners are pleased to announce that one coop has been completed and looks outstanding. Soon, another small chicken coop will be completed and more supplies are on their way to complete the rest of the project to house all chickens on Floreana.


Newly built chicken coop and outdoor enclosure on a farm on Floreana Island. Credit: Carolina Torres/Island Conservation

Island Conservation, our partners and supporters, and the community are taking measurable steps toward sustainability that will have a lasting impact on the island’s wildlife and the livelihoods of Floreana residents. Although chicken coops might not seem like a ground-breaking conservation intervention, solutions like this make the difference in the long-term success of projects on inhabited islands and will ultimately help prevent the extinction of Floreana’s native species.

Featured Photo: View of Floreana Island. Credit: Emily Heber/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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