Lonesome George’s Final Resting Place – What do YOU think?

There’s an animated debate going on right now about the final resting place for the icon of Galapagos, and by extension, all island conservation challenges – even all conservation challenges worldwide:  Where should the stuffed and mounted remains of Lonesome George (LG), the Pinta Island Galapagos tortoise so famous for having been the last of his kind for at least 40 years, rest?   LG died in 2012.  His remains were sent to the Museum of Natural History in New York where they were given careful treatment and restored.   He was unveiled a few days ago at the museum, where he is on display until January.   Aftr that, he’s to travel back to Ecuador.   Galapagos residents are of course furious at the idea that the Ecuadorian government’s proposal to have him displayed in Quito, in exchange for a bronze replica to be standing guard in the islands.    A heated discussion is filling social media these days on the matter.

The Guardian newspaper has come up with a novel idea: Lonesome George, already an emissary for conservation work worldwide, should go on a slow (tortoise paced) world tour to help educate and sensitive people on the challenges of species survival in a rapidly changing, globalizing world with fewer and fewer wild spaces in which to seek refuge.  See their article here:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/animal-magic/2014/sep/22/lonesome-george-tortoise-world-tour

Lonesome George’s species was killed off by a combination of hungry whalers and seafarers looking for fresh meat to eat, the accidental introduction of egg and hatchling tortoise eating rats and pigs to Pinta island in the 19th century.    Giant tortoise species on other Galapagos islands managed to survive this pressure.  Those surviving on islands with rats and pigs remain in a precarious state.  Thankfully, conservation efforts by the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Foundation are helping improve matters.

Below:  LG on display in New York

LG and Linda

Your penguin pictures petitioned by scientist

I was just contacted by a member of the leading penguin research team in Galapagos.   They've been studying penguin populations since the 1970s.    Thanks to their work, they've managed to understand some of the leading threats to penguin survival (some include absence of suitable nesting sites) and have taken action to support their conservation.   One the biggest (and most expensive) challenges is carrying out regular population surveys.  YOU CAN NOW HELP.  By taking pictures of penguins, and recording where and when you did so, and sending them to the researchers, you will help them get a lot more valuable information on penguins.  See their website:  http://www.igalapagos.org/

 Penguins

Google's "Street view" project - behind the scenes.

I guess I missed this video, released last year.  It's 7 minutes long, and gives us a good idea of the kinds of things one will see on a Galapagos cruise. It's fun - I even recognize a face or two, and see my old office.  If you're considering a trip to the islands, have a look a this, and it will give you an idea of what you are in for (but don't expecting the fun music track). 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKG2qH8778U

 

 

Sept 18: Lonesome George at the American Museum of Natural History

Poor old lonesome George – he was my neighbour for 2 years in Galapagos (literally, we lived about 100 metres apart) and after many years of unproductive efforts at finding him a mate, he died on the 24 June, 2012, the last of the Pinta island tortoise species.  He was the famous icon for Galapagos conservation – on the logo of the Charles Darwin Research Station, which did some pioneering work on captive breeding of giant tortoises.    But his fame lives on.   His “stuffed” version will be unveiled at the American Museum of Natural History (New York City) on September 18th, and a special event will be held.   CNH Tours is proud to say that we worked side by side with Johannah Barry, and Linda Cayot – two old Galapagos friends and that we have good contacts with Arturo Izurieta – current National Park director.    From the AMNH website:

Charles Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos Islands in 1835 helped him decipher evolution by natural selection, the process responsible for the dizzying abundance of species on the planet. Today, hundreds of species go extinct each year. In honor of the Museum’s special exhibition of Lonesome George, the famed Galapagos tortoise that was the last of his species, join us for an in-depth conversation about biodiversity and conservation. Uncover the issues and current environmental initiatives in the Galapagos, and explore the possibilities and perils that lie ahead. The conversation will feature Johannah Barry and Linda Cayot of the Galapagos Conservancy, James Gibbs of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Arturo Izurieta, director of the Galapagos National Park. The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Eleanor Sterling, chief conservation scientist of the Museum's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation.

lonesome george

Mild earthquake(s) in Quito area

The U.S. Geological Survey said the moderate quake was only 4.8 miles (7.7 km) deep, with its epicenter located 14 miles northeast of Quito.  Striking at 2:58PM on Tuesday, 12 August, the 5.1 magnitude quake was widely felt, but caused only minor damage.  Two people died, one working in an illegal quarry, and a boy who was killed by falling bags of rice.  The airport was closed for a short time, so that the authorities could be sure the infrastructure was in good working order.  Three other smaller earthquakes struck during the course of the afternoon.  There is no reason for concern on the part of anyone traveling to Ecuador via Quito.

Picture: Dust rising from the hills surrounding Quito following the earthquake.

Earthquake in Quito

Darwin Station Director proposes ambitious infrastructure plan

Sven Lorenz, the young, dynamic director (and CNH Tours friend) of the Charles Darwin Foundation and its Research Station (CDF) announced today his "EXTREMELY ambitious" infrastructure projects for the CDF.  According to Lorenz,  if realised, the plans "will have a transformative effect on the organisation but also on science, conservation and education in Galapagos. Benefits for the bio-diversity of Galapagos, for Ecuador as a nation as well as the local community, and with effects to be felt for the next 50-100 years."

He also explained that as I side-effect, it will would to the CDF becoming financially sustainable, for the first time in its five decades of operation.

To have a look for yourself, please see his 15 page “State of the Union” mid-year letter to the CDF General Assembly: http://tinyurl.com/m6kg2tb (English).   For those who want to know more, you can consult his 46 page Powerpoint presentation just about potential infrastructure projects: http://tinyurl.com/oau43nc.

He is inviting feedback - if anyone out there would like to have their "2 cents' worth", please send your comments to CNH Tours and we'll forward them.

 

 

Grounded ship sunk outside the marine reserve

This is the final chapter of the ill-fated journey of the cargo ship Galapaface - which struck bottom near Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal island in early May.  Against many odds, it was laboriously refloated, environmental damage was reported to be very minor, and it was towed to deep waters earlier this week.   The final solution, to sink it in 2,500 metres of water, took place 32 km (20 miles) outside the boundaries of the Galapagos Marine Reserve yesterday.  About as good as you can expect for the outcome of this accident.

Galapaface sunk

 

Grounded cargo ship is re-floated and towed away

Defying all my expectations, the Ecuadorian authorities succeeded in re-floating the grounded cargo ship "Galapaface" (what a name...??) yesterday.  This ship ran aground off of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in early May.   Back in 2001, the Jessica, a fuel ship, ran aground at nearly the same place, dumping quite a bit of bunker oil into the sea and eventually falling to pieces due to the constant pounding of waves.  I had anticipated that this would be the fate of the Galapaface - but no, it appears that the national authorities have developed the capacity to salvage such ships.  This is very good news for all (including the ship insurance company I suppose!).   The Galapaface was salvaged with very minor environmental impacts.  Bravo Ecuador!

Galapaface being refloated and taken away, off San Cristobal Island, with the typical "Garua" season low cloud cover over the island. See Kicker Rock - Leon Dormido island in the background, just above the the Galapaface bow.  (courtesy Galapagos National Park Service)

 Galapaface

 

CNH Tours is the first Darwin Foundation "benefactor"

We donated $1,000 today to the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF)  in the framework of its partnership with the International Watch Company (IWC).   The IWC has been an important private sector support of the CDF for a few years now, helping ensure the conservatoin of the marine reserve in particular.   CNH Tours sent over 300 people to the Galapagos in 2013, and is always looking for ways to support the conservation of the place our business depends on.   We are also members of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, which provices financial and policy support to Galapagos conservation.    We encourage other tour companies to follow in our footsteps! 

You can also support the CDF through the campaing - see:  http://www.iwc.com/en/help-protect-the-galapagos-islands/

 

 

 

 

Sea Shepherd sniffer dogs on patrol in Galapagos

CNH Tours friend Hugo Echeverria, the legal advisor to the globally active marine conservation NGO "Sea Shepherd", recently informed us of the renewal of his organization's official (via signed agreement with the government of Ecuador) role in support of the Galapagos sniffer dog programme.    The "K9" (acronym for canine) dog team is trained to sniff out wildlife traffickers, and is an important deterrent in keeping people from trafficking in species and animal parts (e.g. live iguanas, shark fins, sea cucumbers, sea horses etc...).  

CNH Tours once had a one-on-one dinner with the Sea Shepherd Society founder, Paul Watson (one of the original founders of Greenpeace).   He is quite a character - and his dogged (no pun intended) determination to see (no pun intended) real conservation action in the marine world is second to none.   Sea Shepherd has been active in Galapagos for nearly 15 years and during this time, it has helped the Galapagos National Park Service achieve many conservation benchmarks.  They deserve our support.   For more information, see:

http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/2014/06/26/k9-wildlife-contraband-detection-unit-will-remain-active-in-galapagos-through-2017-1599

For information on Paul Watson's adventures over the years, see the film made about them:  http://www.screensiren.ca/2011/05/eco-pirate-the-story-of-paul-watson-2/

 

Galapagos K9 Police Unit with sniffer dog (credit:  Cabo Marlon Valle, UPMA)

Sniffer Dog