The fate of the Galápagos iguana was similar to many land dwelling creatures, in that it was driven to extinction from predators. They have now, albeit after a long hiatus, returned to the lands where they once plentifully roamed.
Officials from the Galápagos National Park announced on Monday, January 7th, that over 1,400 land iguanas had been released on Santiago island in the Galápagos Islands. They will now live alongside the Santa Fé land iguana and the pink Galápagos land iguana, which also populate the islands.
“Almost two centuries later, this ecosystem will once again count on this species through the restoration initiative.” – Galapagos National Park Officials
The director of the project (and National Park) which saw the Galápagos iguanas brought back to the island, is Jorge Carrion, who confirmed that the introduction of invasive species, such as the feral pig caused the eradication of the iguanas all those years ago. Charles Darwin made the last reported sighting of a Galápagos land iguana on Santiago island in 1835, but efforts to remove outside predators have been successful, with feral pigs having been gone from the island since 2001.
The Galápagos National Park is the oldest National Park in Ecuador, established in 1959, About 97% of the entire area of the Galápagos Islands are part of the National Park system and remain uninhabited, making it a natural, ecological haven. New measures are continually taken to preserve wildlife on the island, including rulings unveiled just a few weeks ago, which banned fireworks on the Galápagos island, in a bid to protect and leave wildlife undisturbed.
Danny Rueda, the park authority’s ecosystems director, praised the project, emphasising the benefit which the iguanas bring to the natural biodiversity of the island; “The land iguana is a herbivore that helps ecosystems by dispersing seeds and maintaining open spaces devoid of vegetation.”
The UK based charity Galapagos Conservation Trust also run an ongoing effort to nurture and maintain the species:
Wild dogs wiped out the last colonies of land iguanas on Santa Cruz in 1976, and the remaining 60 survivors were rescued by the Charles Darwin Research Station. A similar population crash on Isabela prompted a captive breeding program to be set up on Santa Cruz, which still continues today. In addition, we are supporting a project focussing on reintroducing land iguanas back to Santiago. – Galapagos Conservation Trust
They are currently taking donations to assist in their efforts.