Galápagos wildlife threatened by Donald Trump militarism


This 17 June 2019 video says about itself:

Galápagos Islands: outcry after Ecuador allows US military to use airstrip

The Galápagos Islands are at the centre of political row in Ecuador after the government agreed to allow US anti-narcotics planes to use [and expand] an airstrip on the archipelago which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Dozens of people demonstrated outside the main government office in Quito on Monday to protest against a plan they described as a threat to the world heritage site’s unique environment – and an attack on Ecuador’s sovereignty.

The Galápagos Islands, 563 miles west of the South American continent, are renowned for their unique plants and wildlife. Unesco describes the archipelago – visited by a quarter of a million tourists every year – as a “living museum and a showcase for evolution”.

Ecuador’s defense minister, Oswaldo Jarrín, provoked patriotic and environmental outrage last week when he said last week that US aircraft would be able to use the airbase on San Cristóbal Island, and described the islands as a “natural aircraft carrier”.

Former [leftist] Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa [who had strengthened pro-environment measures on the Galápagos Islands] tweeted: “Galápagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use. It is an Ecuadorean province, world heritage site, homeland.”

Correa – once a close ally but now a bitter enemy of his successor, Lenín Moreno –

Moreno during his election campaign had promised to continue the leftist policies of Correa. But now he prefers to be a poodle of Donald Trump.

accused the government of capitulating to US pressure. Correa closed a US military base in Manta in 2008, changing the constitution to ban foreign military bases on Ecuadorean soil and in 2014 ordered all US defence department staff to leave the country.

But Ecuador’s foreign minister, José Valencia, tweeted that Jarrín’s remarks had been intentionally distorted. “There is not nor will there be a foreign military base”, Norman Wray, president of the Galápagos government council, said in a statement last week. But the islands’ governor did admit to a deal with the US to improve [expand] the runway at the San Cristóbal airport while allowing the “refueling of two planes monitoring illegal activities in the extensive marine reserve”. …

Last week, lawmakers in Quito voted to summon Jarrín and the environment minister, Marcelo Mata, to explain the scope of the cooperation with the US on the islands, which are considered one of the last near pristine wildernesses on the planet. Opposition MP Brenda Flor said the archipelago should be considered a “living and unique laboratory which we must protect”.

This 2017 video is called Wildlife of the Galápagos Islands.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Ecuadorian government gives Pentagon a base in the Galapagos

18 June 2019

The Ecuadorian government of President Lenin Moreno has reached an agreement with the Pentagon to allow the US military to use the Galapagos island of San Cristobal as a military base.

Made public last week, the agreement has provoked popular outrage in Ecuador, where it is rightly reviled as a grotesque violation of the country’s national sovereignty and constitution, as well as a threat to one of the most treasured and sensitive environmental sites on the planet.

San Cristobal, where the US military is to be based, is the island where Charles Darwin first went ashore from the HMS Beagle in 1835. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the site of continuing seismic and volcanic activity and extremely isolated—620 miles off Ecuador’s coast—the island gave rise to unique forms of animal life. These include the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch, which
provided the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve, the island will now become a launching pad for the predatory and lethal operations of US militarism throughout Latin America. The base will pose a direct threat to the lives and freedom of the people of the region, as well the environmental integrity of one of the most priceless areas of biodiversity on the planet.

Nothing could express more nakedly the slavish subservience to imperialism and the outright criminality of Latin America’s capitalist ruling classes.

Touting the deal with the Pentagon, Ecuador’s defense minister, the retired general Oswaldo Jarrín, declared: “Galapagos is for Ecuador our aircraft carrier, it is our natural carrier, because it assures us permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and it is 1,000 kilometers from our coasts.”

Since 2008, Ecuador’s constitution has proclaimed the country “a territory of peace” and that the “establishment of foreign military bases or foreign facilities for military purposes shall not be allowed.” A year later, the country expelled US military personnel from their air base in Manta on the Pacific coast, from which it had conducted surveillance flights on the pretext of fighting drug trafficking.

Ecuador’s defense minister extolled the Pentagon’s prowess, declaring, “what the base [Manta] did in its time, can be done now by just one airplane, because of the advanced technology that you have only with the capacity of a power like the United States.”

The plane he is referring to is a Boeing 707, Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), with a range of over 4,500 nautical miles. Flying at 30,000 feet, it is capable of monitoring an area covering 120,000 square miles. From its base in the Galapagos, this powerful aircraft will be capable of helping to prepare an invasion of Venezuela, spying on the people of Ecuador itself or even tracking the northward flow of Central America migrants. It will be accompanied by a Lockheed Orion P3, an aircraft developed during the Cold War to track Soviet nuclear submarines.

The US base has immense geo-strategic significance. Washington had sought to establish bases there since 1911, three years before the completion of the Panama Canal. During World War II, the US military established a base on Baltra, a small island in the Galapagos archipelago, where it stationed 2,500 troops as well as warplanes and naval assets for the purpose of guarding the Pacific access to the canal against Japan and Germany.

Today, the Pentagon is basing US military spy planes in the eastern Pacific in the context of an escalating trade war and military buildup aimed at preventing China’s rise as an economic and geo-strategic competitor.

Ecuador is a significant battlefield in this intensifying “great power” conflict, with Washington pointing to Chinese investment and Ecuador’s $6 billion in debt to China as symptomatic of Beijing’s intolerable interference in Yankee imperialism’s “backyard”.

The government of President Moreno has done its utmost to submit to Washington’s demands. The terms of the agreements reached along these lines—signed, sealed and delivered during a visit to Quito a year ago by US Vice President Mike Pence—have become clear.

First and foremost, the Moreno government threw open the doors of its London embassy last April, inviting in a British police snatch squad to drag Julian Assange out of the diplomatic facility where he had been granted political asylum in 2012.

Moreno and his henchmen claimed that the British had offered guarantees that the WikiLeaks co-founder would not be extradited to a country where he would face torture, the death penalty or life in prison. As a result of their betrayal, he is now held in the UK’s Belmarsh maximum security prison under conditions tantamount to torture and the UK home minister has signed an extradition request from the US, where the journalist is facing 18 criminal counts, including under the Espionage Act—which carries the death penalty—for exposing the war crimes and criminal conspiracies of US imperialism.

Meanwhile, Ola Bini, a Swedish programmer and friend of Assange residing in Ecuador, has been jailed without charges for two months. Ecuadorian authorities have indicated that they are going to turn him over to US interrogators.

The trampling on the right to asylum, democratic principles and international law in the Assange case has been accompanied by a radical realignment of Quito’s foreign policy with that of US imperialism, with Moreno becoming one of the most enthusiastic supporters of
Washington’s regime change operation in Venezuela.

At home, the Moreno government has carried out a relentless assault on the jobs and living standards of Ecuadorian workers, faithfully implementing the austerity measures demanded under the agreement it reached with the IMF.

Both these attacks and the betrayal of Assange have provoked protests that have been met with police repression.

The stampede to the right by the Moreno government in Ecuador is part of the broader fate of the so-called “Pink Tide”, i.e., the rule by various populist, nationalist bourgeois parties in Latin America. This has seen the ousting of the Workers Party and the coming to power of the fascistic President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the replacement of the Peronist Kirchner … by the right-wing multimillionaire Mauricio Macri in Argentina in 2015 …

In Ecuador, this political process is personified by the current president. Lenin Moreno came into politics as part of a generation of radicalized students who protested against US imperialism’s domination of Latin America and the fascist-military dictatorships that it spawned. He began his career as a member of the MIR (Movement of the Revolutionary Left) …

Moreno has long since shed his youthful radicalism, becoming a ruthless political enforcer for imperialism and the Ecuadorian ruling oligarchy.

As the former vice-president, Moreno was the hand-picked successor of President Rafael Correa, a self-proclaimed supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution [in Venezuela]. … Moreno turned viciously against his former political partner and implemented the policies that have shifted Ecuador violently to the right.

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Galapagos wildlife paradise becoming Trump military base?


This 2017 video says about itself:

From weird pink iguanas and painted insects; to mysterious new species; here are the STRANGEST Creatures of the Galapagos Islands!

Galapagos Penguin

Native to the islands, this is the only penguin known to exist north of the equator in the wild. It’s one of the world’s smallest species of penguin at about 19 inches long and weighing some 5.5 pounds. And due to its low population it’s also considered one of the rarest penguin species. Including other factors, the birds have many predators, including introduced species like dogs and rats. When they’re in the water, sharks and sea lions target the penguins.

Marine Iguanas

Charles Darwin was not impressed with their looks and called them ‘imps of darkness’. They’re better known as marine iguanas that are found only on the Galapagos Islands … and are the only sea-going lizard currently known. Some of their marine adaptations include the ability to dive for more than 60 feet, and stay submerged for an hour. Marine iguanas normally subsist on seaweed. But when food gets low, experts say they can somehow shorten their own bones to make them smaller, and more energy efficient. Their dark coloration serves a couple of purposes. While it allows them to blend in with their environment, it also helps them quickly absorb heat after swimming in the cold waters.

Blue-Footed Booby

It’s pretty easy to guess where this marine bird gets its name. While those feet look strange, they do serve a vital purpose when it comes to perpetuating the species. Males will strut around females, lifting their feet up and down in an unusual mating ritual. The guys with the brightest feet indicate greater fertility, and will usually win the ladies. Because the color fades with age, females mate with the younger males. The blue coloration is a result of a pigment the birds absorb from their diet of fresh fish. Unlike some of the critters on the list, these birds are not found only in the Galapagos … but experts say that about half of their global population breeds there.

Galapagos Pink Land Iguanas

There’s only one place in the world … and only one location in the Galapagos where you can see these uniquely colored lizards. In fact, the pinkish hue almost makes you wonder if this isn’t yet another one of those digitally created beasts … either that, or the reptile seems to have had its dark skin scraped off, leaving it pink and raw. But that is their natural coloration. If you want to see one in the pink flesh, they’re found in the Volcan Wolf region of the Galapagos, on Isabela Island. While this iguana is a species unto itself, experts say only around 100 of them known to exist.

And before getting to the number one critter, here’s an honorable mention. We found an interesting story about the Great Frigatebird which nests in the Galapagos. It’s not unlike the Magnificent Frigatebird which we mentioned earlier. In this species, the males also have a red sac at the throat which is inflated to attract a mate. We’re including it because this particular animal was involved with an unusual experiment to see if birds could actually sleep while flying. And while that has been suspected for some time, scientists now have proof of the phenomenon. The brainwaves of Great Frigatebirds were monitored for 10 days. Researchers found that the birds could in fact be half asleep, but kept one eye open (literally) to watch out for potential threats. The stats revealed that the bird subjects would sleep for just over 40 minutes while they flew on autopilot. But when on land, they will sleep for up to 12 hours a day. Experts say it’s an example of ‘unihemispheric sleep’ — where one half of the brain shuts down while the other half remains alert.

Galapagos Tortoises

The world’s largest species of tortoise can weigh more than 900 pounds. That enormous size has helped make them so iconic, that the Galapagos Islands were actually named after these reptiles (not the other way around). They’re among the longest-lived vertebrates, with life spans documented up to around 170 years. Their population underwent a great decline from when they were first found in the 16th century. At that time their population numbered around 250,000 individuals. By the 1970s, only 3,000 existed. Today, there’s around 25,000, but the species is classified as vulnerable. Besides the Galapagos, giant tortoises only exist on the archipelago of Aldabra in the Indian Ocean.

When Lenin Moreno ran in the 2017 presidential election in Ecuador, he promised to continue the left-wing policies of his left-wing predecessor Rafael Correa. Correa, eg, had strengthened conservation policies for the Galapagos islands. However, once elected, Moreno became a stooge of the Donald Trump administration in the USA. Moreno annulled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s Ecuadorean citizenship and asylum in the London embassy of Ecuador to pave the way for persecution of Assange by Trump in the USA.

Now, it looks like Moreno is handing over the Galapagos islands to the Trump regime.

This 13 June 2019 video says about itself:

U.S. surveillance planes will operate from the Galapagos as the United States are funding an extension of the San Cristobal Island airport in the Ecuadorean archipelago.

Galapogos giant tortoises and climate change


This 23 March 2019 video says about itself:

Tracking Giant Galapagos Tortoises | BBC Earth

From the Ecological Society of America:

Giant tortoises migrate unpredictably in the face of climate change

Unlike many migratory species, Galapagos giant tortoises do not use current environmental conditions to time their seasonal migration

April 18, 2019

Summary: Researchers use GPS to track the timing and patterns of giant tortoise migration over multiple years. The tortoises often take the same migration routes over many years in order to find optimal food quality and temperatures. The timing of this migration is essential for keeping their energy levels high, and climate change could disrupt a tortoise’s ability to migrate at the right time.

Galapagos giant tortoises, sometimes called Gardeners of the Galapagos, are creatures of habit. In the cool dry season, the highlands of the volcano slopes are engulfed in cloud which allows the vegetation to grow despite the lack of rain. On the lower slopes, however, there is no thick fog layer, and vegetation is not available year round. Adult tortoises thus spend the dry season in the higher regions, and trek back to the lower, relatively warmer zones where there is abundant, nutritious vegetation when the rainy season begins.

The tortoises often take the same migration routes over many years in order to find optimal food quality and temperatures. The timing of this migration is essential for keeping their energy levels high, and climate change could disrupt a tortoise’s ability to migrate at the right time.

In the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology, researchers use GPS to track the timing and patterns of tortoise migration over multiple years.

“We had three main goals in the study,” says Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau, lead author of the paper. “One was determining if tortoises adjust their timing of migration to current environmental conditions. Two, if so, what clues do they use to adjust the timing, and, three, what are the energetic consequences of migration mis-timing for tortoises?”

The researchers expected the migrations to be timed with current food and temperature conditions because many other migratory species operate that way. Bastille-Rousseau says “many animals, such as ungulates, can track current environmental conditions and migrate accordingly — what researchers sometime refer to as surfing the green-wave.”

Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, however, migration is weakly associated with current conditions such as fog, rain, and temperature. For instance, if it is unseasonably arid, it appears the tortoises do not take that variation into account when deciding it is time to migrate. It is unclear at this point whether they are basing their migration decisions on memories of past conditions or if they are simply incorrectly assessing current local conditions.

Bastille-Rousseau says the team is surprised by the mismatch, stating “tortoise timing of migration fluctuated a lot among years, often by over two months. This indicates that migration for tortoises may not just be about foraging opportunities. For example, female tortoises have to make decisions related to nesting, and we still have a lot to learn about migration in giant tortoises.”

Fortunately, this sub-optimal timing may not yet have critical impact on tortoise health. Potentially due to their long lives of up to 100 years and large body size, bad timing of migration has smaller consequences for giant tortoises compared to small, short lived animals. Giant tortoises can go up to a year without eating and survive, while other migrating species must eat more regularly to sustain their energy levels.

Giant tortoises are important ecosystem engineers in the Galapagos, responsible for long-distance seed dispersal, and their migration is key for many tree and plant species’ survival. How the tortoises’ variation in migration timing will affect the rest of the ecosystem is still unclear. Because tortoises do not seem to be tracking annual variation in environmental conditions, it is quite possible that the mistiming of migration will keep increasing in the future.

“One concern is that at some point in the future,” Bastille-Rousseau adds, “migration may not be an optimal strategy for tortoises. There may be a reduction in the number of individuals doing these long-distance movements. This would likely have cascading consequences for the whole ecosystem.”

THE CLIMATE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT The last five years were the five hottest on record. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has soared past 410 parts per million. As many as 150 species die off each day. As the call for action grows louder, the youth climate movement ― which scientists say has moved the needle on action to address the climate emergency ― is taking center stage. [HuffPost]

HAWAII BEACHES MAY SOON BE UNDERWATER Hawaii’s iconic Waikiki Beach could soon be underwater as rising sea levels caused by climate change overtake its white sand beaches and bustling city streets. State lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that would spend millions for a coastline protection program. [AP]

A new Stanford University study shows global warming has increased economic inequality since the 1960s. Temperature changes caused by growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere have enriched cool countries like Norway and Sweden, while dragging down economic growth in warm countries such as India and Nigeria: here.

Hammerhead sharks mating, video


This 19 March 2019 video says about itself:

The Complex world of Hammerhead Mating Rituals | BBC Earth

The Galapagos Islands are like no other place on Earth. 600 miles off the mainland of South America, this isolated archipelago lies in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. This investigation employs tagging technology, underwater mapping, cinematography, thermal cameras and other techniques to track the most mysterious creatures, solve unanswered riddles, explore ancient islands reclaimed by the sea, and encounter the islands’ volcanic underbelly.

‘Extinct’ Galapagos tortoise rediscovered


This 20 February 2019 video in French is about the rediscovery of the Chelonoidis phantastica giant tortoise on the Galapagos islands.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 20 December 2019:

Giant tortoise species seen again for the first time since 1906

An extinct giant tortoise has been found in the Galapagos Islands. This species had not been seen since 1906. That is why scientists assumed that a volcanic eruption had eradicated the turtle species.

It is a female Chelonoidis phantastica, a subspecies of the Galapagos giant tortoise. It only lives on the island of Fernandina. The female was discovered by local conservationists.

The proud Minister of the Environment of Ecuador announced the find on Twitter. The archipelago is part of this South American country.

Lots of striking species of lizards, iguanas and giant turtles live on the Galapagos Islands. The flora and fauna on the islands were an important source of inspiration for Charles Darwin‘s book The Origin of Species, in which he explained his theory of evolution.

Galápagos Nazca boobies, females die earlier than males


This March 2016 video says about itself:

Endemic Nazca Boobies of Galápagos

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic guest hike on Española Island to see Nazca booby chicks. … Video by Mark Coger.

From Wake Forest University in the USA:

Mom’s reward: Female Galápagos seabird has a shorter lifespan than males

February 12, 2019

The male Nazca booby, a large seabird of the Galápagos Islands, often outlives the domineering female of the species, according to new research from Wake Forest University published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology. Why? It’s a story of rotating sex partners, the cost of being a parent and how the body falls apart in old age.

In the annual quest for the best breeding mate, the older female Nazca booby’s choice to pair with a younger mate may contribute to lifespan differences within the species, said Emily Tompkins, the lead researcher who co-authored “Sex-specific patterns of senescence in Nazca boobies linked to mating system” with biology professor David J. Anderson.

The study is the latest in decades-long research by Anderson, who studies several seabird species. He and his students have been banding Nazca boobies born on Española Island, a roughly 37-square-mile Galápagos Island outpost, for more than 30 years.

The females, which are about 16 percent larger than the males, control mating and decide when it’s time to “divorce” a current partner for one with a better chance at successful breeding. An excess of adult males in the Nazca booby population has led to this practice of “serial monogamy.” When the males enter their late teens, their chance of breeding plummets, while females continue to breed nearly every year. So, the older females of the species often choose a younger mate each breeding season. And that seems to have led to a shorter lifespan for females, Tompkins said.

“Reproducing can reduce adult survival in the following year, so the higher breeding participation by females across the lifespan, and especially in old age, probably contributes to shorter lives,” she said.

Nazca boobies can live into their late 20s, making them an excellent species for studying decline in old age.

“If you’re interested in aging patterns in human systems, we have few opportunities to collect comparative data from other species,” Anderson said. “This banded, known-age, population followed since infancy can help us understand what factors lead some individuals to age well and others to age poorly.”

Only the long-term nature of the Galápagos study has allowed the Nazca booby to fulfill that comparative role. The potentially long lifespan of Nazca boobies means that Anderson has waited decades to observe breeding behavior and reproductive success in old birds.

Several other factors might contribute to the female Nazca booby’s short lifespan, the researchers found:

  • Females receive poorer quality of care as fledglings, because parents don’t always account for how much more food the larger daughters need.
  • Females play a greater role in feeding the chick each breeding season, and that effort might take a toll over the greater number of breeding episodes.

But, Tompkins explained, we’re just beginning to understand the differences in aging among Nazca boobies.

“Some of this variation is explained by sex, environment, and other properties of individuals,” she said. “We’re so fortunate to have decades of data on hand to address this topic.”