Mar 20 2008


Published by at 10:17 pm under Galapagos,South America

It’s probably not a surprise to you to learn that I am interested in wildlife conservation. On March 13, we got to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, which is in the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. It is part of the Charles Darwin Foundation, which is committed to the conservation of the Galapagos Islands and its varied wildlife.

Although it’s clear to visitors of the Galapagos Islands that much of the wildlife is not afraid of humans (they just ignore you and go on about their business), there are many things which threaten them, and in fact, several species are now extinct or near extinction. For example, various populations of Giant Tortoise species were decimated by sailors and whalers coming through the islands in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Because tortoises can live for a year without food and water, unlike cows, goats, chickens, etc., they were taken as a long-lasting source of fresh meat for crews of ships that were out at sea for long periods at a time. Many whale populations were also severely impacted during this time.

At the Charles Darwin Research Station, we learned about the programs to help eradicate the threats to endemic wildlife (introduced species like cats, dogs, goats and insects are causing significant problems for birds and reptiles in the Galapagos). In addition, we got to see the Research Station’s programs-in-action to help repopulate various species of tortoises, iguanas and finches. We got up close and personal with giant tortoises which are being studied and many of whom are participating in breeding programs (we saw a few in the wild up in the highlands of Santa Cruz as well). We also got to see baby tortoises which are born at the Research Station (either through the breeding program, or through a program to collect eggs from the various species of Giant Tortoise on the different islands). The babies stay at the Research Station for 5 years until their shells are tough enough to withstand attacks from predators. Then each tortoise is released to the proper island that hosts its particular species to help repopulate it over time.

The visit was outstanding. If you are interested in learning more about the Charles Darwin Foundation, please click here.


Meredith and Dave with Giant Tortoise

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Conservation”

  1. Russ Mendola says:

    I want to thank both of you for sharing this trip with notes and pictures..

    Love Dad.

  2. Hi, Dave and Meridith–I am a fellow lover of the Galapagos. My memoir Chasing a Dream in the Galapagos: A Personal Evolution was recently published and is now on the Galapagos Conservancy Web site. In it I describe how Darwin influenced my journey to the islands and how he has changed my view of the world. Like you, I am also a conservationist. As you probably know, the islands are now a World Heritage Site in Danger due mostly to human influence: habitat destruction, introduced species, infections, illegal hunting and fishing, and climate change.

    Your blog gives me hope that with enough of us out here who care about the planet, its endangered species and resources, conservation will become a high priority. If you’re interested in my book, you can go to my Web site at

    Thanks again for your blog.–Bette