Authorities have confirmed that a group of more than 1,400 iguanas has been reintroduced to the archipelago—returning the magnificent creatures to the area. The Santiago Island Iguanas were last recorded on these islands in 1835 by the famous Charles Darwin and have not reappeared until recently. After almost two centuries since this account, people can finally witness them in the wild.
The reintroduction of the iguana to the area is both exciting and vital to the ecosystems. Being herbivores, these lizards are essential to dispersing seeds across the island and ensuring that vegetation doesn’t grow out of control. Even though these islands are protected through their status of being UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a lot of the ecosystems are quite fragile. These lizards could be the key to rehabilitating the life and maintaining ecological balance on the islands.
In cooperation with Massey University in New Zealand, authorities of the Galapagos National Park carried out the reintroduction initiative at the start of the year. In the first time in over 200 years, the lizards are roaming free on the islands. Their disappearance was due to the introduction of animals to the area that weren’t part of the natural ecosystem. Cats, dogs, pigs, and rats competed for the limited food sources and eggs or young iguanas would be eaten. Natural predators would only prey on young iguanas, but cats would go after even the adults. Due to this, conservation efforts eradicated predators from the islands in 2001. With fewer hunters to deal with, the iguanas can once again live happily in the area.
In addition to the reintroduction, authorities will continue to monitor the iguana population to ensure that they thrive on the islands. While the predators that once decimated their numbers are gone, there are still some natural predators like rodents and ants that could disturb the new nests. The future seems bright, but one can never be too careful when changing an ecosystem again.
With a bunch of new iguanas running around on the island, scientists and researchers can once again observe their lives and effects on the environment around them. The lizards were gone for almost 200 years, so there’s a lot of material to catch up on. After all, it’s time someone observed the iguanas after Charles Darwin did so many years ago.