As Earth Day approaches, Island Conservation will share stories of hope and success in conservation.
The introduction of invasive rabbits devastated native Humboldt Penguin and Diving Petrel populations on Choros and Chañaral, but now species have a chance to thrive.
Six hundred miles north of Santiago, Chile, you’ll find Choros and Chañaral Islands, which are two of three islands that make up the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve.
These unique desert islands not only host a wide variety of threatened native Chilean plant species but were once home to over 100,000 pairs of Endangered Peruvian Diving-petrel and 80% of the world’s Vulnerable Humboldt Penguin population.
For millennia, the seabirds and sensitive desert plants thrived together in the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve. This all changed early in the 20th century when the European rabbit was introduced to the islands. Invasive rabbits stripped bare the herbs and shrubs, occupied diving-petrel nests, and devoured the cactus species that provided shaded nest sites for penguin chicks. When the invasive rabbits moved in, the native seabirds lost their homes.
In 2013, the Chilean National Forestry Corporation (CONAF), in collaboration with Island Conservation, removed invasive rabbits from Choros Island followed by Chañaral Island in 2016.
An important element for the successful confirmation of the project was the participation of Finn, a trained Labrador Retriever, who has contributed to several conservation projects around the world. Finn’s role was to confirm the successful removal of the rabbits from Choros Island.
In just under two years of intensive ecological restoration, conservationists redirected two extinction-bound Chilean seabirds toward recovery. CONAF and Island Conservation successfully removed the introduced, damaging rabbit population that was destroying native vegetation and fragile nesting habitat for the Humboldt Penguin and Peruvian Diving-petrel.
This marks the first protected area of its kind within the Chilean Protected Areas Network (SNASPE) to be declared free of invasive vertebrate pest species, an achievement that benefits native wildlife and the eco-tourism industry centered around them.
Featured photo: An adult Humboldt Penguin protecting a nest with two chicks. Credit: Island Conservation
- Restoration Makes an Instant Impact on Anacapa Island - April 22, 2019
- From Silence to a Wall of Sound—How the Removal of Invasive Species Turned the Sound Up On Hawadax Island - April 19, 2019
- Rebounding Vegetation and the Cascading Benefits of Conservation on Palmyra Atoll - April 19, 2019
- Pinzón Tortoises: The Age of Giants is Secure Once More - April 17, 2019
- Seabird Nesting Habitat Saved in the Humboldt Reserve - April 17, 2019
- How the Tutururu Became the Bellwether for Threatened Species in Acteon and Gambier - April 16, 2019