Preparations for the trip are still underway! I just received a revised departure date of November 4th – gives me a little bit of extra time to prepare.
Geographically speaking, the Galapagos Island chain is located off the coast of Ecuador. Ecuador is strongly committed to conserving the islands and maintaining their unique biodiversity (as shown through the establishment of the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve (GNP), as well as their work with the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF)).
One of the goals of the GNP and CDF is to address the impacts that non-native and introduced species have on the islands. Introduced non-native species are a leading cause of extinctions in island communities worldwide. Increasingly, land managers are removing introduced species to aid in the restoration of native ecosystems. Like other islands around the world, the Galapagos islands are facing ecological pressure as a result of the long-ago introduction of invasive species (goats intentionally introduced as a meat source for seafarers and rats unintentionally from stowing away on ships). Goats were successfully eradicated in 2006 from the large island of Santiago, allowing a resurgence of native vegetation and habitat. Rats are responsible for 40-60% of all recorded bird and reptile extinctions worldwide.
This project is focusing on the removal of invasive rats from ten small islands and islets in the chain; four of these islands are home to the Galapagos hawk, a species considered vulnerable due to its small population. There are approximately 20 hawks that reside on the islands being addressed; these hawks are the only predators on the islands. Our goal is to protect these hawks from being at risk during the rat eradication project.