Friday, February 11, 2011

Galapagos Journal Entry #15

Life in camp, Part II

As many of you know, I am back in Minnesota. As incredible as this project is, the other demands of my job limited my ability to stay in Galapagos for the duration. Never fear, though – the hawks are in great hands and The Raptor Center is still actively involved in their care. Lori Arent, TRC’s clinic manager and “captive management expert extraordinaire” replaced me in camp. There is a satellite phone in camp, allowing us to confer on occasion and discuss progress.

My last week in camp was spent doing minor tweaks to the aviaries, which Lori has continued – adjusting perches, providing shade, noting areas of potential trouble based on the birds’ behaviors. This management phase of the project is primarily about preventative health care. Because raptors are vulnerable to bumblefoot and other health issues when kept in captivity, we have put extensive effort into preventing trouble from developing. Bumblefoot often occurs when birds are jumping from perch to perch rather than flying and landing softly. Think heavy bruising leading to open lesions like bedsores – can be a huge challenge to treat. Prevention is a balance of providing the right perch options (a variety helps), managing the birds in such as way as to keep them very calm and maintaining a healthy weight through diet modifications. While efforts such as these have kept both Lori and I busy during our time there, there have been no horrible surprises. The years of experience that we have in working with wild raptors in captivity have definitely paid off. An ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure!

It is always amazing how much longer it takes to do basic things in camp. The luxury of hoses and other tools for cleaning are missed. The good news is that there is an endless supply of water available for cleaning – just grab a bucket and haul it from the ocean! Timing does matter, though. If the tide is extremely low, it is a bit harder to reach the water from the lava rock shore. If it is extremely high, we have to wade to the aviaries.

While the weather was hot and sunny the first couple of weeks in camp, the rainy season has begun. Still plenty warm (especially compared to the past few weeks in Minnesota!), but quite wet. The rain came at a perfect time – the rodenticide bait was on the ground long enough to do its job, but now will dissipate more quickly with the rain. Less fun for Lori and the hawks – perching that was working well when it was fair left the hawks vulnerable to the rain. More aviary adjustments!

While we continue to provide care for the hawks, our colleagues are monitoring the treated islands. The bait is dissipated, the rats appear to be gone and the scientists are collecting population data on the local plants and animals to compare to earlier surveys. Obviously, our hope would be to see no non-target impacts (that is the purpose of mitigation strategies) and to document a dramatic increase in endemic species populations over the next few breeding cycles. Stay tuned!


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