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Champion Islet - Floreana Island

The Champion Islet, named after the whaler Andrew Champion, is a small island (23.23 a) located just offshore Floreana Island in the southern part of the Archipelago, considered as one of the most beautiful places on Galapagos for all snorkeling and diving fans and an excellent opportunity for dolphin watching. It impresses already with its great diversity of exotic species on the land like penguins, blue-footed boobies, flamingos, pintail ducks and frigates. But we will find the major attraction of creatures in the water such as sea lions, sea tortoise, Galapagos sharks, whales, hammerheads, moray eels, giant mantas, starfish, wrasses, etc. Put on your diving gear and descent into a paradise of blue water, surrounded by all these splendid animals.

Another aspect which makes the Champion Islet very important and a center of attraction is its role as one of the two last habitats of the Charles Mockingbird or Floreana Mockingbird (Nesomimus trifasciatus). Their nearest relatives can be found in North America and the Caribbean and northern areas of South America.

The Charles Mockingbird is a very curious bird with a grey-brown plumage, downward curved beaks and a size of 28 cm. He lives in dryer areas than other mockingbird species due to his diet of Opuntia cacti and he has a reproductive ecology which is cooperative breeding. As the egg laying of the Charles Mockingbird is related to the rain and he often raises two different broods, he has helper birds - usually related - which assist to raise the young.

When Charles Darwin visited the Archipelago in 1835 he discovered the description of four species of mockingbirds. Three of them are endangered of extinction including the Charles Mockingbird. He became extinct on Floreana 120 years ago due to the introduction of alien species like goats, cats and black rats by human beings. The goats also fed from the Opuntia cacti and the black rats and cats destroyed the nests of the mockingbirds. Another reason is that Floreana was the first island with human population who damaged the mockingbird's habitat.

Now there exist only 20-40 birds on Champion and other 50-70 on Gardner Island, also located near Floreana. While the population counts less than 100 birds it is questionable, if the Charles Mockingbird will survive or if it would be the first extinct on bird species of the Galapagos Islands. To avoid this, Champion is under protection of the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Foundation dedicates itself to ensure the survival of the population checking frequently the size and health of the population and making notes of every positive or negative trend. But furthermore, a precise observation will be necessary to detect threads like introduced species which could be dangerous for the mockingbirds and to eradicate them.

Besides, at the moment there are discussions about a re-establishment of the Charles Mockingbird on Floreana but before this the priority would be to extinct threads and to cultivate the Opuntia cacti.

There is still hope for a life with future in a few decades for the Charles Mockingbird.

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