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Galapagos Conservation

Galapagos Facts

Galapagos

Abundant fearless wildlife, visitors can get up close and personal to some of the world's rarest animals

The Galapagos was home to the only surviving giant Pinta tortoise, 'Lonesome George' which unfortunately died in June 2012.

The convergence of three major oceanic currents brings an incredible mix of marine life to Galapagos

The endemic Galapagos marine iguana is the only lizard to swim in the ocean

Darwin's research in Galapagos led to the groundbreaking theory of The Origin of Species

In 1978 UNESCO designated Galapagos as the first World Heritage site

The movie Captain and Commander was filmed on the islands of Bartholomew and Santiago

The name 'galapagos', an old Spanish word for 'saddle', was originally used by Bishop Tomas and his crew to describe the giant tortoises but the name stuck

Due to the early presence of both Spanish and English inhabitants in Galapagos, the Islands now have both Spanish and English names

When to Go

Galapagos

Due to their isolation and position on the equator the Galapagos can be visited all year round

There are considered to be two main seasons: The 'dry season' June to December and the 'warm season' December to May

The dry season is characterized by blue skies and midday showers whereas the warm season is more tropical with daily rain and cloudier skies

Sea mammals and land birds are most active during the dry season and there are many sea bird courtship displays

Climate & Weather

Galapagos

There are two seasons: December to May is warm and wet and June to December is cool and dry

Annual rainfall in the lower regions is 2-4in (60-100mm) and the air temperature varies between 69°-84°F/21°-29°C

The islands' climate is determined by ocean currents

The sudden climatic change caused by El Niño can be devastating and as many as 50% of sea lions and marine iguanas can die during this time

The convergence of three major oceanic currents brings an incredible mix of marine life to Galapagos

Despite being located in the tropics, the Islands' micro-climate is curiously dry.

During the cool season, the Humboldt Current brings relatively cold water, which produces thermal inversions that impede rainfall.

At this time, a fine mist called “garúa” is formed as cool, moist air just above the water meets a higher layer of air which is warmed by the hot sun.

'El Niño' is a phenomenon that occurs roughly every 5-7 years. The southeast trade winds slacken and cause the sea temperatures to rise dramatically and cause storms and heavy rainfall.

Visitor Sites

Galapagos

Los Gemelos (the twins) are two 'pit craters', formed when empty magma chambers collapsed in on themselves

Alcedo Volcano on Isabela Island has the largest tortoise population and is the only volcano visitors can climb

The Devil's Crown is a dramatic snorkeling site to the north of Cormorant Point where there is an almost completely submerged volcano

The lava tunnels on Santa Cruz provide an understanding of how the islands are formed

Post Office Bay on Floreana is home to a fascinating tradition where a barrel placed there by whalers in the late 18th century was used as an unofficial postbox

The Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela has the largest basaltic caldera in the world measuring 5.6x6.2 miles(9x10km)

The Wall of Tears on Isabela was constructed by the prisoners of the Penal colony in the mid 40's and characterizes the cruelty the prisoners had to endure

Charles Darwin

Galapagos

Darwin sailed to Galapagos on board the HMS Beagle in September 1835, when he was 26 years old

During the five weeks that he spent there, he went ashore to collect plants, rocks, insects and birds

He observed the unusual life forms and their adaptations to the harsh environment

He noted that it was possible to distinguish which island a tortoise came from by the shape of their shell

His most well-known research is of the numerous species of finches which inspired his groundbreaking theory The Origin of Species, published in 1859

Galapagos Geology

Galapagos

The estimated age of the islands is between 3 and 10 million years

The Islands lie on the Nasca tectonic plate and are the plate's primary land mass

Intense heat caused by the plates being pushed apart leads to eruptions which create new volcanoes and eventually form new islands ('Hot spot' theory)

There have been around 13 volcanic eruptions in Galapagos in the last 100 years

Most recent eruptions: 3rd June 2008 on Isabela and April 2009 on Fernandina

Protection & Conservation

Galapagos

In 1959, the Government of Ecuador declared all uninhabited areas of Galapagos a national park

In 1978 UNESCO designated Galapagos as the first World Heritage site and the Galapagos Marine Reserve received the same status in 1998

The Galapagos is second only to the Great Barrier Reef National Park of Australia in terms of the size of marine area protected (80780miles2/130000km2 )

The Galapagos National Park Service is the main government authority which oversees the safeguarding of the islands' natural resources

Galapagos Animals

Galapagos

The Galapagos penguin is the only to be found in the northern hemisphere and to breed in the tropics

A Galapagos tortoise can weigh up to 595lb (270kg) with a carapace length of 4ft (1.2m) and outlive most humans

The endemic Galapagos fur sea lions are the smallest among the world's seven species of fur sea lions

The Galapagos Marine Iguana is the only marine lizard to exist in the world

The Galapagos Islands are home to the world's largest cormorant and the only one unable to fly.

Galapagos has one of the world's rarest ecosystems in which the herbivores at the top of the food chain are reptiles.

Galapagos Swallow-tailed gulls are the only gulls in the world to feed at night

The Galapagos boasts the world`s largest and only red-footed booby colony

There are 23 species of reptile in the Galapagos and all but two of those are endemic to the archipelago.

The Galapagos is one of the few areas of the world where turtles are still a common sight.

Over 400 species of fish have been recognized in the Galapagos, with 41 species unique to the islands.

At 30cm in length and with a large pair of venomous jaws, the endemic centipede (Scolopendra galapagoensis) is among the Islands' most feared animals

A lichen survey in June 2010 by the Charles Darwin Foundation uncovered more than 60 new species in the Galapagos with an estimated ten species new to science.

Galapagos Geography

Galapagos

Situated approximately 600 miles (1000km) west of the Ecuadorian mainland

Covers a land area of roughly 4971 miles² (8000km²)

Straddles the Equator between 1.5° north and 0.5° south, and 89° to 92° west.

Highest point is the peak of Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island at 5600 ft (1707 m)

The islands have 837 miles (1350 km) of coastline, more than mainland Ecuador

Galapagos History

Galapagos

1535-The Galapagos Islands are discovered by the Bishop of Panama, Fray Tomas de Berlanga

1835–Charles Darwin arrived on HMS Beagle

1959–Government of Ecuador declared all uninhabited areas to be a national park

1964–Official inauguration of the Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz

1978-Galapagos was designated as the 1st World Heritage site by UNESCO

Lonesome George

Galapagos

'Lonesome George' was one of the rarest animals in the world

He was the only surviving giant Pinta Island tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni)

His estimated age was 90 years

Had been relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Station, Santa Cruz Island

Had been put with two females, but although eggs have been produced, none have been hatched

Issues in Galapagos

Galapagos

Early human activity on the islands was extremely damaging for the wildlife as pirates and buccaneers took giant tortoises aboard for food

24% of plant species and 50% of vertebrate species are still considered as endangered due to human activity in earlier times

Clandestine fishing of black coral, lobster, shark fin, sea cucumber and sea horse is incredibly destructive to the marine life

Population growth caused by tourism is putting a strain on the unique and fragile environment

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