Good Galapagos tortoise news


This video says about itself:

Island-hopping in Galápagos: meet the world’s rarest tortoise and the birds of Española Island

10 October 2011

In the second part of his Galápagos island-hopping adventure, Andy Duckworth talks to naturalist guide Robert Naranjo, seeks out sea lions, a friendly hawk, dancing albatrosses and more prancing blue-footed boobies. He also meets Lonesome George, the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise and the rarest creature on the planet

From the BBC:

28 October 2014 Last updated at 19:16 GMT

Giant tortoise makes ‘miraculous’ stable recovery

By Jonathan Webb, Science reporter, BBC News

Where once there were 15, now more than 1,000 giant tortoises lumber around Espanola, one of the Galapagos Islands.

After 40 years’ work reintroducing captive animals, a detailed study of the island’s ecosystem has confirmed it has a stable, breeding population.

Numbers had dwindled drastically by the 1960s, but now the danger of extinction on Espanola appears to have passed.

Galapagos tortoises, of which there are 11 remaining subspecies, weigh up to 250kg and live longer than 100 years.

The study, based on decades of observations of the variety found on Espanola, was published in the journal Plos One.

Slow release

It offers some good news that contrasts with the tale of Lonesome George, the very last of the related subspecies found on Pinta, on the other side of the archipelago. George’s death, at the age of about 100, made international news in 2012.

Lead author Prof James Gibbs told BBC News the finding on Espanola was “one of those rare examples of a true conservation success story, where we’ve rescued something from the brink of extinction and now it’s literally taking care of itself”.

Prof Gibbs, from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York (SUNY-ESF), said he felt “honoured” to be reporting the obvious success of the reintroduction programme, which the Galapagos Islands National Park Service commenced in 1973.

His team has found that more than half the tortoises released since that time are still alive, and they are breeding well enough for the population to plod onward, unaided.

“It looks like we can step back out of the picture,” Prof Gibbs said.

It is quite a contrast to the 1960s, when just 12 females and 3 males roamed the island.

“They were so rare at that point, they couldn’t find one another. Many of the females had lichens growing on their backs, and fungi, that indicated they hadn’t been mated in a very long time.”

Those animals were taken to an enclosure [on] another island, to concentrate on breeding. Over the subsequent decades, more than 1500 of their captive-raised offspring have been released on Espanola.

Competing for cacti

It wasn’t as simple as putting the tortoises back, however. Their problems began when feral goats were introduced in the 1800s and devoured much of the island’s vegetation, severely disrupting the ecosystem.

“They can literally turn a rich ecosystem into a dustbowl,” Prof Gibbs said.

The goats even learned to feast on very tall cactus plants, whose dropped pads are a key food source for the tortoises in the dry season.

“They would feast on the roots… and chew away at the bark, and eventually that would topple these cacti. And then they had an incredible buffet of maybe 500-1000 years of cactus growth, demolished in a week or two.”

Conservationists set about culling the goats in the 1970s and finally eradicated them in the 1990s.

Their legacy, Prof Gibbs discovered, remains.

Analysis of the island’s plant life and its soil show that it has seen a major shift to bigger, woodier vegetation in the 100 years since the goats started stripping the undergrowth.

These shrubs and trees are a problem both for the tortoises and for their summer food of choice, the cacti.

The trees even get in the way of an endangered albatross that breeds on the island, making it difficult for the big, ungainly birds to take flight.

“Population restoration is one thing but ecological restoration is going to take a lot longer,” Prof Gibbs said.

Dr Rebecca Scott, an ecologist who studies turtles at GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany, said the results showed how important it is to monitor reintroduction carefully.

“Reintroducing these large, keystone species, in combination with reducing the spread of invasive species, can really help return ecosystems to native state.

“This work highlights the merit of well-managed reintroduction programmes, but also of really monitoring how these animals do.”

Dr Gerardo Garcia, a herpetologist at Chester Zoo, agreed that the situation was complex and the programme had succeeded because of careful, long-term management.

“It’s a long process but it’s quite normal for it to take decades,” he told BBC News.

“Nothing gets released and stable in less than 20 or 30 years.”

See also here.

Galapagos islands, new film


This video says about itself:

Galapagos 3D Narrated by Jeff Corwin – Official | Digital 3D Version

In the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, there is a paradise unlike any other: the Galapagos. Amongst these remote volcanic islands, life has played out over millions of years in relative isolation. The result is a wonderland of nature, with a remarkable collection of plants and charismatic animals that have all adapted to this unique environment. Meet giant half-ton tortoises and marine iguanas that spit sea-salt. Dance with the tropical albatrosses and hunt fishes with the colorful blue-footed boobies. Swim with tiny penguins thousands of miles away from their natural habitats. This is a story of discovery, of survival against the odds, and of nature’s ingenuity, all brought to life in stunning 3D.

From the California Science Center in the USA:

Explore the Wonders of the Galapagos Islands in a Stunning New 3D Film

Wildlife Conservationist Jeff Corwin featured in “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” Opening on October 5, 2014 at the California Science Center

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 23, 2014 — The California Science Center invites audiences to an exploration of a paradise unlike any other, with the breathtaking IMAX film, “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” narrated by Jeff Corwin, premiering this October 5th.

“Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” brings to the giant screen these remarkable volcanic islands, home to some of nature’s most incredible living creatures. Located close to the equator in the Pacific Ocean, at the confluence of several nutrient-rich currents, the Galapagos archipelago has developed over millions of years in relative isolation. The result is a living museum of nature, with an abundance of species of plants and unique animals that have adapted to thrive in this challenging environment. Giant half-ton long-necked tortoises lumber among dancing blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants. Small penguins living thousands of miles from their natural habitats share the seas with unique marine iguanas that spit sea-salt. This is an incredible story of discovery, of survival against the odds, and of nature’s ingenuity.

“I was thrilled to provide the narration for this amazing project,” said Corwin, wildlife conservationist and Emmy award-winning TV host. “When I saw the film for the first time, it literally took my breath away. Despite traveling the world for 20 years hosting and creating documentaries, I was thoroughly impressed with this incredible journey.”

After viewing the film, Science Center visitors are encouraged to visit the “Ecosystems” exhibition, where concepts from the film like adaptation are illustrated through a blend of live plants, animals, and hands-on exhibits in 11 immersive environments, or zones. “Ecosystems” occupies 45,000 square feet and contains more than 250 species of plants and animals. Guests will find out why isolation breeds change and visit a simulated tropical island research station in the “Island Zone,” where they will learn about evolution by studying some of the unique animals that make these isolated habitats their homes. In the “Extreme Zone,” guests explore the desert, rocky shores, and more to discover how environmental factors test the limits of plants and animals—and how they have adapted to flourish, just like the animals featured in “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland.”

“There are not too many places more powerful than the Galapagos Islands when it comes to understanding our planet,” said Corwin. “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” perfectly captures what makes the creatures living there such unique characters.”

Produced by Anthony Geffen, written by David Attenborough and narrated by Jeff Corwin, “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” is directed by Martin Williams and features original music composed by Joel Douek. The film is a Colossus Productions presentation in association with SKY 3D, distributed by nWave Pictures Distribution.

“Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” was filmed on location over a ten- month period in 2012 and 2013, followed by five months of post-production. Using breakthrough digital 3D filmmaking technologies and featuring 4K ultra-high resolution imagery, the producers have brought to life the extraordinary world of the Galapagos archipelago in a way that has not been possible before. The Galapagos Islands are governed by Ecuador and lie some 600 miles from the coast of South America.

The film’s official website is here.

See also here.

Noddy tern’s Galapagos symbiosis with brown pelican


Brown noddy tern and brown pelican, photo SOLENT NEWS

From the Daily Express in Britain:

A cheeky bird that booked a free ride and meal on pelican

THIS naughty seabird perches on the head of a pelican… just waiting for the chance to claim any fish dropped by its feathered rival.

By: John Ingham

Tue, August 19, 2014

And the smaller brown noddy bird clearly comes out on top.

“The noddy takes advantage of the pelican’s fishing style to cash in on a free meal,” said wildlife photographer Tui De Roy, who snapped the uninvited guest in action off the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific.

“Neither the noddy nor the pelican fear each other. Both are well accustomed to the relationship, even if it is one-sided.”

The large-billed pelican feasts on small fish, with the noddy grabbing a quick snack if it sees the chance.

Tui, 60, who grew up on the islands, added: “Several pelicans were working the shallows, diving every few minutes. Each was followed by several noddies that settled on their heads, snatching fish trying escape.

“I suspect the pelican doesn’t really appreciate the hitchhiker, but it is used to it and there’s nothing it can do to shake it off while its beak is still full of water.”

Perhaps the pelican should just send it the bill…

Charles Darwin’s complete Galapagos library posted online


This video says about itself:

11 November 2011

A classic example of evolution on Daphne Major Island in the Galapagos. Natural selection works on beak size variation of Darwin’s Finches.

From ars technica:

Darwin’s complete Galapagos library posted online

404 volumes kept on board the Beagle join the giant Darwin Online repository.

by Sam Machkovech – July 16 2014, 10:40pm +0200

Charles Darwin‘s massive ship library, including astounding drawings of species from far-off lands, meant he rarely had to come above-board while sailing on the Beagle in the 1830s.

Charles Darwin’s five-year journey to and from the Galapagos Islands ended in 1836. While that was over two decades before the publication of On the Origin of Species, he credited his time on board the Beagle as a formative experience for his theory of evolution. That extended trip wasn’t only spent studying local wildlife, especially during lengthy voyages at sea to and from home—Darwin also devoured a library of more than 400 volumes of text.

While many of those books were referenced in his later research, they were not preserved as a collection once the Beagle returned to England, leaving a gap in our understanding about the books and studies that kept Darwin’s mind occupied during such an historic era. Now, thanks to the painstaking efforts of a two-year Beagle project funded by the government of Singapore, that complete on-ship library has been transcribed and posted at Darwin Online, the world’s largest repository of Darwin-related texts and writings.

The library, which was stored in the same cabin as Darwin’s bed and desk during his journey, totaled out at 195,000 pages by the time researchers at the National University of Singapore assembled the full collection (and these weren’t exactly picture books, with only 5,000 corresponding illustrations). The complete list is quite astounding, made up of atlases, history books, geology studies, and even a giant supply of literature. Darwin also enjoyed a few books in French, Spanish, and German, along with a book in Latin about species and a Greek edition of the New Testament.

Historians and fans can read and perform text searches of the fully transcribed library. But if you’re pressed for time, we strongly encourage you to at least skim through the collection of gorgeous illustrations.

Explorer Thor Heyerdahl born 100 years ago


This video from Oslo in Norway is called The Kon-Tiki Museum.

From the Norway Post:

Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo celebrates the 100th anniversary of Thor Heyerdahl’s birth

Amazing new exhibition and activities in Norway and abroad as the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo celebrates the 100th anniversary of Thor Heyerdahl’s birth

When the famous Norwegian adventurer, scientist and communicator Thor Heyerdahl died on 18 April 2002 it made headlines around the world. No Norwegian celebrity’s death has received as much coverage before or since. He had become world famous 55 years earlier thanks to his legendary Kon-Tiki expedition and photos of Thor Heyerdahl and his crew together with the USA’s President Truman outside the White House.

The photos and the story of the Kon-Tiki expedition were everywhere. Naturally, interest did not decline when the film about the expedition won the Oscar for best documentary and the book sold by the millions. It has since been translated into 72 languages. During these years, Thor Heyerdahl retained his world celebrity thanks to new expeditions that were loved by the entire world, but also strongly criticised by academia.

He followed up the Kon-Tiki expedition with other spectacular expeditions on the reed boats Ra and Tigris. His recreations of prehistoric voyages showed that early man had mastered sailing before the saddle and wheel were invented. His reputation as a scientist was consolidated through his archaeological excavations on the fabled, mysterious Easter Island. Curiosity was Thor Heyerdahl’s driving force. Thor Heyerdahl’s archives at the Kon-Tiki Museum have now been included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. Much of this archive is now on display in the Kon-Tiki Museum’s new library exhibition, which opened in April this year.

The Kon-Tiki Museum is celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth with a new, upgraded exhibition. There will also be a touring exhibition, accompanied by lectures and films, which will travel around Norway and abroad: Russia, the UK, Italy, the US, Canada, Spain, Armenia, Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania and Estonia. The ‘Thor Heyerdahl 1914 – 2014′ exhibition portrays Thor Heyerdahl’s life and best known expeditions on large posters through text and photos. At the Kon-Tiki Museum the Kon-Tiki raft has been fitted out as it was on its voyage across the Pacific Ocean in 1947.

Upgraded Kon-Tiki exhibition – Kon-Tiki sails again

The exhibition is our most comprehensive yet and has a special section for children. A new exhibition, ‘The Tiki Effect’, tells the story of how the names Kon-Tiki and Aku Aku (Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition to Easter Island in the 1950s) became buzzwords from the 1950s to the 1970s, with bars, restaurants, music and fashion named after Kon-Tiki and Aku Aku. Even Walt Disney adopted the idea in Disneyland and the well-known pop group The Shadows had a hit with a song called Kon-Tiki.

This music video is called The Stranger ~ Kon Tiki – The Shadows.

The Galapagos expedition – new exhibition

Thor Heyerdahl believed that South American Indians could have sailed from Peru and Ecuador to the Polynesian islands. He proved this was feasible with the Kon-Tiki expedition.

“Why did no Indians visit the Galapagos Islands?” asked his opponents, who claimed that there were no clear signs that South American Indians had visited the Galapagos Islands. Thor Heyerdahl took this as a direct challenge. He quickly organised a small expedition with three archaeologists. Within two months, after digging in five locations on Floreana, Santa Cruz and Santiago, the three men had collected more than 1,988 pieces of pottery, one pottery flute, four pieces of flint, one piece of obsidian, and two other artefacts that proved the islands had been visited in both historic and prehistoric times.

Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition to the Galapagos Islands now has its own exhibition at the museum where kids can also learn how an archaeologist works.

Cave stone sculptures from Easter Island

When Thor Heyerdahl was on Easter Island in 1955-1956 he learned that there were old family caves that were passed down through the generations. Thor Heyerdahl became the first outsider, from a country far away over the sea, who was allowed to see a family cave on Easter Island. The sculptures he found here depicted a wide variety of subjects, from people and mammals to birds, fish, insects and molluscs. There were skulls carved in stone, animals with human heads, faces with beards, a hook-beaked birdman and models of reed boats. Thor Heyerdahl was given some of the cave stones by the local population and he bought others.

Since then, the 900 cave stone sculptures have been stored at the Kon-Tiki Museum, inaccessible to the general public until this summer in 2014. Some of them are old, while others were probably made while Thor Heyerdahl was on Easter Island in 1955-1956.

More exhibitions about Thor Heyerdahl the scientist, environmentalist, adventurer and artist will open in the autumn of 2014. There will also be a new exhibition about the fantastic voyages across the Atlantic Ocean on Ra and RA II, both named after the Egyptian sun god.

Bloodthirsty finches on the Galapagos islands


This video say about itself:

In the Galápagos, when there’s no food to be found, the sharp-beaked ground finch adapts with a bloodthirsty appetite. Their target: nearby seabirds called boobies.

From Wired.com:

Absurd Creature of the Week: The Tiny Blood-Slurping Bird That Terrorizes the Galapagos

By Matt Simon

07.04.14

The Galapagos Islands are as beautiful as they are unforgiving. Patrick Watkins could have told you as much when his captain rudely marooned him there in 1805 for acting like an ass. According to legend, mostly coming from Watkins himself, he managed to scrape by alone on the island, trading vegetables with passing ships for grog. He’d then tie on a good drunk, and the crews that intermittently landed would find him sunburned and ragged and raving, a menace no captain in his right mind would volunteer to rescue.

Watkins, though, wasn’t the only terror on the Galapagos. You see, Wolf Island, an often brutally dry rock in the archipelago, is ruled by vampires—hordes and hordes of tiny vampires. These are the so-called vampire finches, enterprising critters in a brutal environment that have figured out how to nip at the tail feathers of other birds until they draw blood, somehow without their victim putting up much of a fight. Even though they don’t sparkle or battle werewolves or whatever, they’re marvels among the many marvels that are the famed Darwin’s finches.

Ken Petren, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Cincinnati, landed on Wolf Island in April to study these remarkable vampires, actually a subspecies of the sharp-beaked ground finch, and didn’t even lose his mind and eventually throw his colleagues overboard. “I could say that I was pretty skeptical of the whole vampire finch thing, having heard about it and realizing that there’s not a ton of data on it, mostly just some observations,” he said.

But what he found was far more macabre than the typical recorded accounts of vampire finches pestering the living daylights out of adult boobies. “On this island they really seem to be purposefully going up to a booby chick in the nest,” Petren said, “and they peck at the base of their tail where they have oil glands, and they make it bleed and they drink the blood.”

Even more menacing, they have a habit of gathering in mobs for such endeavors, watching each other intently to learn how to be unimaginably annoying for the rest of their lives. And although Petren saw them swarming dead chicks, he hesitates to conclude that the finches were responsible for the deaths. Life in this hot, dry environment is tough, so mortality rates for seabirds are quite high as it is, and he has no direct observations of finches actively hunting the babies.

Turtle, shark migration from Costa Rica to Ecuador


This is called Sea Turtle Migration Video.

From Wildlife Extra:

First evidence of an important marine migration corridor between Costa Rica and Ecuador

Sanjay, a 53k (117lb) male endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii), recently made history when he completed a 14-day migration from the Cocos Island Marine National Park in Costa Rica to the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador.

Sanjay is the first turtle to directly link these two protected marine areas, proving the connectivity of the Eastern Tropical Pacific, as well as highlighting the importance of protecting migration routes.

“It’s truly remarkable,” said Alex Hearn, conservation science director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, based in California.

“Sanjay knew where he was headed, and made a beeline from one marine protected area to the next.

“These protected areas of ocean are hot spots for endangered green sea turtles, but we also need to think about their migratory corridors between protected areas.”

Sanjay was one of three green sea turtles tagged at Cocos Island in June during a joint 10-day research expedition by the Turtle Island Restoration Network and Programa Testauracion de Tiburones y Tortugas Marinas (PRETOMA) of Costa Rica.

Since 2009, the two organisations have tagged over 100 turtles and several species of sharks in a programme to understand how endangered turtles and sharks use the Cocos Island and Galapagos National Parks marine protected areas, and to see if their is biological connectivity between those new sanctuaries.

Sanjay is the first turtle to have been documented moving between these two marine protected areas and joins several hammerhead sharks, a silky shark and a Galapagos shark that have spent time at both of these reserves.

“Finally seeing a turtle move from Cocos Island directly to Galapagos is absolutely amazing,” said Maike Heidemeyer from PRETOMA. “Especially because preliminary genetic research results suggest that there is a connection between the green turtles at Cocos Island and the Galapagos.”

Green sea turtles, like Sanjay, play an important role in the Eastern Tropical Pacific ecosystem, but little is known about the geographic distribution of juveniles and males, despite the fact that nesting sites for female turtles have been identified in the Galapagos, mainland Mexico and Revillagigedo Islands, as well in the Northern Pacific of Costa Rica.

At Cocos Island, two different populations of turtles occur: the black-to gray coloured Eastern Pacific green turtles (also known as “black turtles”) and Western Pacific populations. Both populations are considered by some to be subspecies, but there is no official taxonomic division.

“These species are protected while they are in the reserves, but as soon as they swim beyond the no-fishing zone, they are being hammered by industrial fishing vessels that set millions of hooks in the region,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island, biologist and co-primary investigator of the Cocos research programme.

“Our goal is to collect the necessary scientific data to understand the migratory routes and advocate for ‘swimways’ to protect these endangered species throughout their migration.”

“The route that Sanjay followed is riddled with longline fishing gear,” said Randall Arauz of PRETOMA.

“Several international initiatives exist to improve marine conservation in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, and its time for these initiatives to translate into direct actions that ultimately protect these turtles from unsustainable fishing practices.”

Satellite, acoustic and genetic information is currently being analysed and will be officially published later in the year.

Sea turtle Sanjay is on the move again, the latest ping suggests that he is headed to green sea turtle nesting grounds at Isabela Island.

Sanjay’s migration track can be seen on this map.

Researchers have tracked a green turtle migrating nearly 4000 kilometers from its home. That’s a record breaker for the species, but it’s bad news for some marine protected areas (MPAs). Such zones are off-limits to fishing, yet they may not be keeping these turtles—and other highly migratory animals—safe, according to a new study: here.

Shark finning in Costa Rica decimates world’s sharks. Read more here.